Musing on "Meaningfulness" in CRPG's - Part 2:

Shawn Delahunty's picture

Greetings all,

Last time, I carried on at some length about CRPGs versus MMORPGs, and how in Dungeons and Desktops author Matt Barton succeeded in, "...igniting my Nerd-Rage, burning with the fierceness and fury of a thousand suns." In my own roundabout, navel-contemplating way, I came to understand and grudgingly accept what he was saying about how MMORPGs have ursurped the title from CRPGs as "King of the Digital Hill" for, "fantasy-themed gameplay on a computer". (I can't bring myself to say that the MMORPG is "King of the Hill" as far as role-playing on a computer though. I'm sorry. I tried. But my fingers rebelled as I tried to type it out--I just can't do it. As evidenced from the stimulating back-and-forth in the comments, the classical "role-playing" aspect is minimal to non-existent in MMORPGs anyway.)

I know that last time, I stated that I would also discuss what would comprise "My Ultimate CRPG" here in Part 2. However there's just way too much material to cover in one blog post. So forgive me, but I shall have to save, "The FUN stuff!" for Part 3 of this blog-entry. Here in Part 2 of the blog-post, I'm going discuss two things, in (probably too much) detail:

Section I - I shall least try to provide some good answers to the questions I posed at the end of my last post. Those questions are listed below, along with a couple of related ones. There are an additional few points which I want to address too--these were brought up in the replies and comments to my last posting. "Thank You" to the folks who took the time to read and respond; these extra points are valid, so I feel I should address them.

Section II - I will attempt to explain what *I* find MEANINGFUL about CRPGs, and why I think MMORPGs can't be MEANINGFUL--to me--as they currently exist.

Here we go. Brace yourself... this one's a monster.

Section I:

Q#1: There was a comment posted by one of the forum members, in which he put forth an interesting implication about me personally: Am I "missing" the multiplayer aspect of play in the MMORPG?

To be fair, I'm not 100% certain if he was asking me, "Did I miss the point--that it's supposed to be multi-player?" or, "Did I miss out on the multi-player aspect, because of my negative past experiences in an MMORPG?" or even, "Did I misinterpret/dislike the style of multi-player play that an MMORPG like WoW offers?"

Q#1 - Variant 1:
The first variation of the question is stupid. He almost certainly wasn't asking that, thus I won't bother answering it. The other two variations are significantly more fun to consider.

Q#1 - Variant 2:
While the "griefing" and tedium I experienced in EverQuest did color my perceptions a little, they did not make me "hate the multi-player aspect" of the game. For a short time, it was indeed fun to hang out in a "new fantasy world" with some other newbs, to try out moves and spells and do some exploring. That I did not have to drive for 2 hours to get to a gaming session was a huge plus! I could play in my pajamas, sipping tea. Hooray for the Internet! I came to dislike the multi-player aspect of the MMORPG more gradually. The realization that it wasn't fulfulling, wasn't FUN, wasn't MEANINGFUL to me, took a while.

Q#1 - Variant 3:
This one feels like it's getting closer to the truth, to the dark, bitter heart of my dislike of MMORPGs.

It's obvious on it's face that people like... no, scratch that... that people love the form of multi-player interaction which the MMORPG provides them. As many others have pointed out (and as I figured out pretty quickly), it's all about, "...being the baddest of the BAD ASSES..." as Matt himself so neatly described it.

But I think I can honestly answer this variation of the question as follows: "No. I am most definitely not misinterpreting the style/flavor of the Multi-Player portion of the MMORPG. Yes, I dislike it. No, my opinion is not colored or skewed by my prior rough experiences with 'griefers', or 'player-killers'."

What I do miss is the Multi-player aspect of Role-Playing. I am convinced that the, 'camaraderie and social bonding' which I'm looking for, absolutely cannot be found in the current MMORPG model. I would argue that what I'm seeking is deeper, more fulfilling. It very much hearkens back to the excellent experiences and relationships I made during my tabletop RPG years. (Please note I'm not suggesting that the friendships made in a tabletop RPG are "better" than those made purely on-line in an MMORPG. However I am suggesting that they are significantly more MEANINGFUL; to me at least. I feel a closer personal connection to someone I've looked in the eye, someone who's shaken my hand, someone who's face cracks into a smile when they see me.) Perhaps this is generational in nature? There is much psychological and sociological evidence to support that. Perhaps it is a consequence of my specific personality type? Again, possibly. This is a key point which I'll explore further on.

Q#2: That same forum-member who posed Question #1, made a couple of other statements about MMORPGs, mirroring what I have read elsewhere. These statements stood out to me, and deserve some kind of answer. (I'm not picking on you Rob, honestly. You simply gave a clear summary of opinions which I've read and heard many times, in other forums and venues. So you get the dubious honor of being dangled on a string as, "the argument piñata". Sorry. Feel free to return the favor.)

To rephrase the statements as questions:

    Is there really "...little incentive to have MASSIVE worlds full of intrigue in the single-player experience if only a handful of players will ever explore it fully."??
      Is it really true that, '..there is little incentive to put obscure, "Easter Eggs" into single-player CRPGs.'?
        Further, does stating, "...WoW is reportedly full of them, because there's great incentive for exploration in such games." genuinely imply that there isn't a "..great incentive for exploration.." in single-player CRPGs?

To be blunt, I firmly believe that the answer to all of these is, "No." Actually, make that, "NO!"

To me, the thinking is entirely incorrect. (Yes, I am aware that I'm challenging the sentiment held by nearly the full majority of game-developers, publishers, portals, advertisers, other gamers, and probably even my own mother. No, this won't my first time tilting at the windmills--I'm getting pretty skilled at it actually. "Chaaarrrrrggeeee!" *clompety-clompety-clompety....* *WHAM!* "...ouch. Medic!...")

But consider my counter-arguments:
(a) I feel that there is actually more incentive to fully explore a massive game-world in a CRPG. You are, in a very real sense, "getting more value for your money." Every acre of virtual landscape I explore and battle through in a single-player, offline CRPG, works out to "more game-fun", without any ongoing cost. With the MMORPG, you are always 'racing the meter' as it were, since you pay for the on-going experience. Further, in a CRPG, I know that I won't spend hours traipsing through the devastated wasteland behind by others, wondering why there aren't any wandering monsters, only to finally discover a long line of other players camping; all waiting for their turn to "Slay the Pernicious FoobledyGroo and seize his Sceptre of Explosive Flatulence +10".
(b) Who says that "...only a handful of players will ever explore it fully"? From my own experience, and from comparing notes with friends who've played CRGPs, it's patently FALSE. CRPG content most certainly does get meticulously and lovingly explored.

(Interestingly, and more than a little disconcertingly, an article on this very subject popped up on CNN while I was writing this section of the blog. If I was the paranoid-delusional sort, I'd assume that The Universe was spying on me!!
Here's the link: CNN Article: Why most people don't finish video games.

For the record?
(1) I think the conclusions made by the folks interviewed in the article are unjustified hogwash. It seems to me that they're in it for, "maximizing short-term profit potential" via the MMORPG form.
(2) The article is awfully light on the details of where this supposed "10% Completion Rate" data is coming from.


Only 10% of avid gamers completed the final mission, according to Raptr, which tracks more than 23 million gaming sessions.

I suppose I could use Google, and maybe dig up more information on Raptr, but I shouldn't have to--the article should provide that. What is their measuring method? How are they correlating the data to the various gamer-groups and demographics? What games did they "measure"? How did they choose which games to "measure"? What is the error-margins on the measurements? How are they proving causation--that is, how do they KNOW what they are claiming about the 'reasons people quit the games', is anywhere close to being accurate?

I do recommend reading through the 'Comments' section at the end of the article. There is a fair bit of trolling and whining, but there are also some excellent observations made about the "Real" reasons folks don't finish 'lengthier' single-player games.)

So what do I make of all this?

  • Regular subscriptions of an MMORPG means a steady flow of large amounts of $$$; hence there's an obvious appeal. This one is obvious, and I can't really argue against it. Some money is helpful, more money is better--if that's all you're after.
  • The developers can 'monitor' the game-world, and thus can 'measure' how many people find the 'wonderful hidden bits'. However, I gotta tell ya, "I smell a windmill hereabouts."

    Just because they can 'monitor' and 'measure' it in an MMORPG form, does NOT imply the inverse; that "most" players don't explore & experience all the content in a single-player, OFFLINE, CRPG. However, it does make it immensely easier to argue to the publisher that it's "worth" putting in the $$ and man-power to fill in the content to that level of detail.

  • Really, I can't get away from the creeping feeling that MMORPG vs. CRPG all comes down to a $$ argument. What gives the "highest return" for the investment, and what can be "proved" as giving the "best return at the end of the business quarter" will likely always get priority at a publicly held company.
  • Q#3: Why do I not find MMORPGs to be "Meaningful"? (i.e., Not fun, not memorable, and not enjoyable in any lasting sense.)
    Q#4: Why do I prefer single-player CPRGs so vehemently?

    I've kind of already answered both of these questions, in my responses here and via what I stated in Part 1 of this blog post. There are a couple of other factors though, which I do want to mention:

    (a) As I described in the first installment of this blog post, my experience with EverQuest was terribly disappointing. Frankly, it sucked, on many levels. I didn't enjoy the experience much at all. However I must point out that the exploration of such a "large world" did hold my interest for a time. (I think the exploration enjoyment came because EverCrack was the first CRPG-ish/fantasy thing I'd played in some time; I'd been hopelessly hooked on Thief: The Dark Project, Thief 2, and Half-Life 1.) So I don't irrationally or pathologically hate the things.

    (b) MMORPGs do not provide any opportunity for real "role-play". Indeed, as Matt Barton himself pointed out to me in the commentary on my prior blog-post, even other 'RPG old timers' who play WoW don't bother trying. It's a different game style apparently, and clearly a different social dynamic is at work. I'm not even sure why the "RPG" part of the name has stuck. Although I suppose if we tried calling it, a "Massively Multi-player Online Fantasy Adventure Game" (MMOFAG), the marketing folks would likely have a conniption-fit.

    (c) There are many times when I want to run a party of characters, MYSELF; without outside help, without intervention or spoilage. As is discussed elsewhere on this site, and in Dungeons and Desktops, CRPGs are somewhat unique in this regard. They are the one game genre which offers some level of overlap between, 'foot soldier Tactical' and 'theater commander Strategy' in the gameplay. Yes this brings on a unique set of challenges; you can't identify as closely with a group as with an individual character/avatar, it is a much less "Casual" game, and it necessitates compromises in the gameplay style--the need for "turn-based play" or "Active Time Battle" type of hybridization. But the uniqueness of play makes the design challenges easily worth the effort.

    (d) I prefer the OFFLINE nature of the CRPG. No, I am neither a paranoid schizophrenic nor a complete Luddite. (I'm sure that one of the voices in my head would have warned me, if that were the case. Joke, joke.) I value my privacy. I don't want my behavior 'tracked', 'categorized', 'analyzed', 'targeted', 'data-mined' or any other words which the marketers try to hijack. It all boils down to one thing: SPYING. It's nobody's beeswax when I play, how much I play, or even IF I play a given game. Also (I go into this in my book in great detail) having an "always ONLINE connection" creates a lazy mindset with developers and publishers--they assume that they can just "push out" the bug-fixes and updates because you will have to be connected to their servers all the damn time.

    (e) I am complete opposed to the notion that a 3rd party dictates when I can play a game. Power outage someplace? I don't get to play. Someone hacks their servers? I don't get to play. They have a server-farm upgrade? I don't get to play. My ISP has connection issues because some knuckle-draggging mono-brow chops through a fiber-cable? I dont' get to play.

    (f) I am completely opposed to the notion that a 3rd party dictates when I will no longer be allowed to play a game---EVER AGAIN. Think about it. At some point, I will simply be unable to play a given game. That may be in 10 years, or 6 years, or after next Christmas. But it will happen with an MMORPG. The developer/publisher feels they aren't bringing in enough subscription cash to, "justify it"? It's gone. If they think it might compete with a newer MMORPG? It's gone. If a publisher makes a bad business decision, nukes their company from within, are forced to sell out to another firm, and then the new owners scavenge the tech/IP/whatever and don't want to run the game servers any longer? Piffle, it's gone.

    Consider the ramifications of that for a second. Imagine if the same were true since CRPGs began. All of the lovely CRPG goodness which Armchair Arcade brings you, which Dungeons and Desktops brings you; GONE. Not a cheery thought.

    And one last one,

    (g) At least when I play a single-player CRPG, I can be assured of the quality of the immersion, my suspension of disbelief. It isn't ruined by my supposed comrades-in-arms. If I happen to mention the word, "hauberk", I can be pretty sure that everyone else in the room with me knows what the hell I mean. (Even the voices in my head 'get it'.)

    Section II: What is MEANINGFUL, to me, about CRPGs?

    This may sound odd, but after deep introspection I am nearly certain it is true. The most MEANINGFUL aspect of CRPGs is their ability to provide me something completely unique, in all the Universe: "A world which is entirely mine, not shared with any other living thing."

    Why is this so important? Because each CRPG world, governed 'realistically' by the magic of programming, populated with a fascinating array of different creatures, providing a different set of aesthetics, rules, and artwork, is a research vessel.

    And what is in this vessel? What is the great experiment? Me. Just me. No societal pressure, of any kind. No painful physical repercussions for any actions. No limits imposed by poor DNA, injury, age, disease, or the vagaries of boring physics. Each CRPG provides (or more accurately, has the potential to provide) the perfect, undiluted, unassailable, exploration of 'self'.

    CRPGs alone allow me to explore all facets of who I am, who I've been, what I like, what I hate. CRPGs also allow me to ask, and then truthfully answer, the single most important question I could ever ask myself: With no one watching, WHO OR WHAT MIGHT I BECOME?

    This is why I find the "role-playing" portion to be so critical, even if it's really only just me, talking to myself inside my head. This chance to explore facets of my personality, without criticism or external judgment of any sort, makes the experience of playing a CRPG heady, intoxicating, and addictive to me.

    To be clear here, the "role-playing" aspect of tabletop RPGs is a very different animal. In many ways it is much more enjoyable; it is certainly much easier. It's also hugely more entertaining and fun and enthralling, as the spontenaity and improvisation of the other human beings is something the computer cannot provide. There is an energy (the 'animus'), a "joyful exchange" which takes place in when we have fellowship with other human beings.

    So wouldn't a tabletop RPG actually be more MEANINGFUL than a CRPG then? Isn't the CRPG just a crude approximation of the "real world"? A digital simulacrum of a Dungeons and Dragons session?

    No, I don't believe so. Initially perhaps, in the early caveman days of CRPGs, this was the case. But not now. It's become it's own thing. Or to be precise, a CRPG has the capability of being it's own thing.

    Sure there are similarities between the two. In a tabletop RPG, just as in a CRPG, the gameplay is about exploration, of the game-world and of yourself. But the tabletop RPG session is simultaneously much more limited than a CRPG. You are still going to be judged by others, pressured, even if only at the most subliminal level.

    The "role-playing" in a tabletop RPG is about, "sharing an experience". The "role-playing" in a CRPG is about, "BE-ing the experience." It's the biggest ego-trip you can imagine. In fact, a CRPG offers an "imagination trip" which no other media can.

    Books can't do this, because you are at the mercy of the author and his or her story. Sure, having a good imagination makes a book much more enjoyable. If you're really gifted you can even "imagine your way" around the corners, behind the doors, or even into unwritten sub-plots of a book. You're really just using the book as a spring-board at that point, a starting-place. You're in the realm of "Pure Imagination" then. But it's a lot of work; you have to imagine EVERYTHING.

    Movies are even more limiting, for obvious reasons. You are stuck with someone else's story, someone else's concept of what the world and characters and costumes look like. You can try to "imagine your way" around the corners and off into pure dreamland, but it's hard--the movie keeps playing, the actors keep moving, the soundtrack keeps running. All that conspires to interrupt your imaginings. At least with a book you can drift out there in dreamland, then come right back to where you left off.

    What then about the MMORPG? Can the MMORPG, as it currently exists, provide some of "exploration of self" to me? Sure, I suppose it could. But for all the reasons discussed previously, the MMORPG falls too far short of the goal; it's too much bloody work and effort, for too little payoff. There are too many things which make me realize I'm surrounded by others.

    So then, we're back to the basic question which gets me so unbelievably jazzed when I start a new CRPG:


    "Within the constraints and systems and qualities of this new, untainted, unexplored world, What will I become?

    There are many other questions too, which can be asked and explored in CRPGs:

    What kinds of beings will I encounter? Will I help those 'beings' I come across? Is their cause 'worthy'? What happens if I ignore their pleas for help? What if I murder every single one of them in their sleep? What is it like to hunt down and kill every single NPC, every single monster, and even every single piece of neutral wildlife in the whole game? What does that feel like?

    You can take this line of thinking even further in a CRPG, to it's final, terrible conclusion:

    What does an entire continent, scraped clean of all 'life', look like when you spend virtualized days walking across it? What does that barrenness feel like? How does this make me view myself?

    In case any of you are staring at your screens right now in abject horror: No, I'm not sociopathic. There is no need to call the guys with the big net and the strait-jackets. How do I know? As those questions demonstrate, I've already explored that option in a CRPG. Once. It felt AWFUL. As in mind-bendingly, soul-wrenchingly HORRIFIC. I brought myself near to tears on a few occasions. I felt genuinely depressed for days as a result of that experiment.

    This I think demonstrates the power which a CRPG provides. This is one reason why I happen find CRPGs MEANINGFUL. There are a myriad of other reasons of course. CRPGs provide:

    • The opportunity to explore truly vast gameworlds, without having my suspension of disbelief shattered by others.
    • The opportunity to just knuckle down and do 'hack N slash'. At my own pace. For HOURS, if I so choose.
    • The opportunity to plan more "strategic-level" actions in preparing for battles, encounters, distribution of loot, the accepting of quests, and so on, compared to an FPS or MMORPG.
    • The opportunity to play either a single character, or a whole party, as I choose.

    So where does that leave us? Well it probably leaves anyone still reading this a little bit shell-shocked. As for me, I'm already mourning the decline of the single-player CRPG. I'm hoping though, that there will be a re-surgence of the "non-MMO" CRPG at some point. (Actually, truth be told, I'm secretly hoping that I can help lead that resurgence!) In the meantime, I doubt single-player CRPG's will disappear entirely. But Dr. Barton's conclusion in Dungeons and Desktops, is valid: CRPGs will get scarcer, MMORPGs will continue to grow and proliferate, and the Internet as a whole will get dumber.

    I suspect the single-player CRPG will likely follow the same "popularity arc" as the point-N-click Adventure Game genre: Moderately Successful, to Massively Dominating, to Market Swamping Excess, to Rapid Decline, to Steady 'N Slow. Several sub-variants of the CRPG are already hard to find, except in the "Indie Scene". Anything with: turn-based combat; 1-player control of multiple-character parties; "old school" appearance like isometric views or top-down views; 60 or 80 or 100+ hours of gameplay; heavy story-based/text-based games; all of these already appear to be consigned to a niche market.

    For now, there are a few studios which are going to continue producing CRPG's in the "styles" which I prefer:

    Besides, I can always go back and replay classics like Morrowind, Baldur's Gate, Ultima 7. So, things are not as bleak as they might seem.

    Wow. That was quite a heap of thinkin', wasn't it? (I think I pulled something in my frontal lobe.) Hope I didn't lose anybody back there. Next time in Part 3, I will finally leave the "Ponderously Philosophic Prattle" behind, and get to "The COOL Stuff"--what would make "My Ultimate CRPG!"

    Thank you all for reading, and may your LEWT be EVAR-PHATTER!

    Cheers,
    -Shawn

    Comments

    Matt Barton
    Matt Barton's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 01/16/2006
    Wow, that was a huge post,

    Wow, that was a huge post, Shawn! Lots of great thought and insights there. Seems like you're really struggling with a sort of MMORPG anxiety or something. :)

    Looking at your list of why CRPGs are meaningful, though, I'm not sure why you couldn't find those things in MMORPGs as well. It is possible, after all, to turn off all the chat functions in WOW, and unless you're hanging around a city or town, most of the other players are just going about the game's activities (solving quests, killing monsters, etc.) Most of the time they don't bother you at all, and of course if you're leveling up a character, you might go hours and hours without seeing another player, especially if you stick to less popular zones and races. I imagine if you rolled a goblin or worgen, the two newest races, you'd see lots of other players, but if you rolled, say, a troll, dranei, or tauren, you'd probably be mostly left alone until you got to 80. In any case, hacking and slashing at your own pace is what WOW is all about, especially if you get into the professions or economics of it. You can easily spend hours farming the elder mistvale gorillas, for instance.

    I've only briefly played Everquest and Ultima Online, but my impression is that they weren't as friendly to solo play as WOW. I think that's the genius of WOW, actually--WOW is a LOT of fun to play solo, especially when you're new to the game. You don't have to join any parties or interact at all with other players until the endgame, and even then you could continue soloing if you chose. I read somewhere that a sizable percentage of WOW players do precisely that.

    I was really struck when reading the manuals to UO how much they went on about good etiquette. Your name had to be fit the fantasy conventions, for instance, and you were encouraged to speak in a quasi-medieval manner "How art thou, brave wizard?" and so on. There was a guy on here at one point that had played a bartender in UO, and he had lots of great stories about that. Apparently it was a much different animal than WOW, and that's probably why WOW is so much more successful. It's like Renaissance Fairs, where you just go to be entertained, vs. LARPing, where you're expected to be in character participating. A lot more people would just like to go and see rather than perform. Just human nature, I guess; otherwise there'd be just as many actors as there are members of the audience!

    Don't get me wrong, I go through phases where I am (a) obsessed with WOW, (b) frustrated with WOW, and (c) ambivalent about WOW. Right now I'm in phase C. But yeah, all it takes is one griefer or jerk to really make a group a rotten experience. Most of the groups I've been in don't ever talk to each other, but just try to steamroll through the instances as quickly as possible. If you're new, they might insult you or even boot you from the party. I've been booted at least five or six times. Usually it was over a dumb mistake I made, or maybe the group just thought I wasn't doing enough DPS or whatever. It's never been personal. Indeed WOW is not really personal at all, nothing at all like tabletop D&D. That's why I generally get bored or disillusioned eventually and go on to other things.

    The true wow heads go all the way with guilds and such, being on every weekend. I think pretty much anyone at that level gets into the social side of it, at least making friends with a couple of their guild mates. I tried to get into this part of it; one of my real life friends was a big guy in a guild so he got me in. Those guys met six days a week for raiding, and you had to let them know if you weren't going to make it. I burned out pretty quickly once I realized I'd been doing it for almost a month and was still being treated like an outsider. I'd try to make a joke or something and always felt like the child talking while the grown ups were talking, if you know what I mean. A lot of those guilds see people come and go all the time, so I guess you need to be a regular for a LONG time before they'll start taking you seriously.

    But back to the part of the book you're mentioning, the interesting thing for me is to ferret out what CRPGs can do better. For me that means doing things the MMORPGs can't do. #1 on the list is they don't have to be real-time, #2 is they don't have to be persistent (always-on, respawning) worlds, and #3 they can focus on just one character or party. MMORPGs are basically just online theme parks. CRPGs are more like one-on-one D&D sessions with you just you and the computer as the DM.

    n/a
    Shawn Delahunty
    Shawn Delahunty's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 08/01/2011
    Probably a bit too much

    Hi Matt,

    Many thanks for reading my work. I'm grateful that you folks have given me a venue to try this out. In the cold light of dawn, I'm not sure the piece really holds up well. I finished writing it last night after my wife and I got home from a friend's birthday dinner, and was pounding the keys into the wee hours of the night. I still stand by what I wrote, but it sure doesn't read back "smoothly" to me. You're the editor, what do you think?

    I don't think I have "M.A.D." MMORPG-Anxiety-Disorder. But if you can recommend a good 12-step recovery plan, I'll look into it. :-D

    Also, I don't doubt for a second what you and others have explained about WoW is correct. I'm sure I _could_ get a mostly enjoyable single-player experience out of it. Again though, my real-world, practical objections to the whole design structure and 'ethos' of an MMORPG makes me leery to even bother:
    - Monthly subscription, for single-player? (Yes, I'm hopelessly cheap.)
    - No single-player with 4 or 6 character parties? (Well, ok.)
    - No turn-based combat option? (Really? REALLY? Well, OK. Diablo 1&2 didn't have it.)
    - The aloof or impersonal game-play of 'groups' you describe? (No thanks. I've read of people getting booted from parties because they had to leave to go PEE. Come ON. Although I laughed my butt off at Cartman in the SouthPark episode spoofing it.)

    With all that, I have to ask: Is it really worth it to me? The answer keeps coming back as, "Nope." Then there's 'The BIGGIE' which I pointed out in my post: The game can just, go away... forever. I know that some Wow-holes / pundits will likely ask: "You're being paranoid about the game 'going away'. How often do you go back and play 10-year-old games? I mean, really?" The truth is, quite often.
    - I did a complete play-through of HalfLife 1 about 5 months ago, just for the sheer fun of racing through it That game is 13 years old now.
    - I played a few nights of Stonekeep back in the winter, and that moderately buggy turd is 16 years old. (I can't explain it, but that game just clicked with me, bugs and all. Same way some folks love Daggerfall.)
    - Somewhere in the last year, I played the Westwood classic Eye of the Beholder part-way through, just to mess with the interface and stoke some ideas about my own CRPG engine. I forgot all about my "analysis" and ended up playing for HOURS. I've solved that old thing I don't know how many times, but even with the cheesy sounding MIDI tunes, something keeps pulling me back to Waterdeep.

    There is one thing you just brought up Matt, which I hadn't considered at all: the difference between LARP's vs. Ren-Fest. In so doing, I think you've pinpointed something in my inner core which explains much. There are times I like both kinds of events. However I lean very much to the actor/performance/creation side of things. That's why I love "hamming it up". Weirdly, I'm not doing it for the accolades or to stoke my ego or to 'validate myself', or any of the other "external reward" psychological reasons. (Not usually.) I do it when nobody is watching.

    Ask my wife; around the house I'm continually making sound-effects, cartoon voices, humming or singing goofy little music snippets--it's the Looney Tunes soundtrack to my life. I can't tell you how many times she's asked me after I got out of the shower, "Honey? What were you doing? I thought I heard voices. Who were you talking to? Did you have the phone in the shower?" I know this makes me sound more than a wee bit cracked, but I'm not. At least I don't think I'm cracked. I just really love exploring dialog in that way, play-acting through the parts. Vamping on some memorable scene in a movie is great fun. This is also a big impetus behind why I write, because of this inner compulsion to create, to entertain. I've been writing in journals and such for years now--story ideas, funny titles, clever turns of phrase, character ideas, little scenes or character-study vignettes. I can't help myself, the stuff just keeps pouring out of me.

    This inner compulsion is, I believe, also what keeps me endlessly fascinated with programming--even when I'm completely burned out with computers, technology, programming, or even thinking. Bringing things "to autonomous life" on a computer, being able to interact with them, just revs my motor and jazzes me up again.

    Well, that's enough of a ramble. I've got "real work" to do for a while. I do want to take a minute and say (write) some things to you:
    (1) Thank you good sir, for your excellent feedback and suggestions and counter-argument. When I wrote asking to join Armchair Arcade, I explained that I was looking for "meaty debate"--Holy Remonstrative Cows Batman!
    (2) Thank you for writing such a great book. I'm looking forward to reading Vintage Games sometime in the future as well. I'll try not to stir a controversy with that one. :-)
    (3) You asked in a comment about my CRPG design. I'll be laying out some of the general concepts in the next post. My CRPG ideas hybridize everything I've written, with the undeniable "good points" of the MMORPG form--including the amazing cash-flow. I think I've solved the conundrum, as it were. I'm really looking forward to having those ideas critiqued.
    (4) I promise I will try to keep the next blog-post shorter! :-)

    Cheers!

    n/a
    Matt Barton
    Matt Barton's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 01/16/2006
    Comment Length
    bitsweep wrote:

    (4) I promise I will try to keep the next blog-post shorter! :-)

    Cheers!

    I don't think anybody around here cares about post length. They need to be as long as they need to be--that's our attitude around here. It's not like anyone is forced to read anything for crying out loud. :)

    I think we have a lot in common. I know I'm always either listening to music or humming a tune, sometimes breaking out into song if the mood strikes me. I often like to compose songs in my head and imagine I'm performing them with a band, though granted I don't tend to do that in public. :) But I have gotten busted a few times playing out roles; if I have a story idea, I like to act it out loud to see if I like the way it sounds. My imagination is never idle. I don't know how other people work, but if I'm not engaged in something I'm at least thinking about something creative, like a song, game, book, hell, sometimes just a blog or podcast idea. I guess that's why I liked doing the podcast; I already have monologues anyway, why not just record them for others to enjoy?

    I'm pretty sure my wife thinks I'm certifiable, but what's the alternative--just sitting somewhere with a blank mind? That sounds like death to me.

    n/a
    clok1966
    Offline
    Joined: 01/21/2009
    Lots to read, (confession- i

    Lots to read, (confession- i skimmed, goign to read after work today)..
    I must say.. WOW is really easy to solo in... In fact I have tried to make the game a "new" game several times by doing "stupid" things.. I leveled 1 to 60 without armour (or cloths) once.. just for the heck of it, and yes (8 year old snicker) with a female :)
    I speed leveled a couple times with a friend.. it wa a race.. but not in Realt ime, just game time.. so if you used your Double Exp wisely and so on... it wasnt 2 weeks of real time it was (sadly) a 4 days in game time for me I beat him by a few hours. but it took over a month.
    most of these game scan be whatever you want...

    side note.. it does sound like he has some issues with MMORPG's I would sugggest one of the Free2Play ones, no money invenstment..

    Forsaken World- new so has a pretty large player base
    Runes of Magic- older but well rounded now
    Allods- damn pretty and if a few niggling flaws where fixed would be my pick

    of course those 3 are the most WOW like.. there are hundreds of others.. AD&D, LOTR, etc...

    Im going to add more after reading his post complelty.

    Shawn Delahunty
    Shawn Delahunty's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 08/01/2011
    Thanks Clok

    I apologize for making the posting so long, I really did try to smash it down to something more manageable. I just didn't want to split the thing into 4 different parts--I figured I was already stretching people's patience as it stands. I'm also well aware that I hold a hugely minority opinion on games--it might just be me, all by my lonesome who feels this way.

    You are absolutely right, I do have issues with MMORPGs. Some of them are gameplay related, some of them are real-world concerns like I pointed out in the blog-post.

    Thanks for the suggestions on the other free-2-play MMORPGs. (Yes, I've got "issues" with that whole concept too. :-) ) I read about Forsaken World but had not tried it yet. I did try Runes of Magic briefly, but it never 'clicked' with me. I'd never heard of "Allods", so I'll go take a gander at it.

    Thanks,

    n/a
    Rowdy Rob
    Rowdy Rob's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 09/04/2006
    Much to discuss, Bitsweep. But some things to distill.

    Bitsweep, I read and enjoyed your post, and there are many valid points made in it. And it was fun to read your references to ME as representing "the common man" viewpoint. :-) Truthfully, I've never been a "multi-player" gamer because there's too many immature kids in the mix, and because, ironically, it's been too "impersonal" so far. I am open to a good multi-player experience, though.

    Anyhow, it appears that most of your arguments against MMORPG's can be distilled into "I don't like MMORPG's." That may sound extremely simplistic, but the games, as they exist now or are likely to be in the future, well, they're just not your cup of tea. And it appears that nothing is out there now, or is likely to be coming in the near future, that will change that. BUT, it seems that there's a part of you that wishes you could enjoy them like millions of others do, so you're exploring that, you're rationalizing your viewpoint, and perhaps wondering if it's possible that you could discover and be part of the fun; to "join in," as it were. You're willing to be convinced, in other words.

    Your "privacy" and "digital distribution" arguments are, in my opinion, wholy separate issues that can be (and have been) discussed on AA. They're valid concerns and arguments, but in my mind, they are unrelated to the issue of why MMO's are, or are not, fun, gameplay-wise. For now, I'll concentrate on the gameplay aspects.

    As I said, MMO's are "just not your cup of tea." They do not provide the level of immersion you are seeking, the level of self-exploration or self-revelation, or just straight-up combat mechanics you are after. And other players impede, rather than enhance, your enjoyment of these games (so far). You prefer the freedom, depth, and the level of escape that a well-designed single-player world can provide.

    And there's nothing wrong with that! I generally don't like Country music. A friend of mine was a big fan of Country musician "Garth Brooks." He spent a whole night once playing song after song after song AFTER SONG of Garth Brooks for me, and showed videos of him in concert, trying in vain to convert me to Garth Brooks fandom, but the more he gushed and raved about every nuance of Mr. Brooks' performance ("Ok, here it comes! Watch THIS part!!!!"), the less and less I was interested, to the point where I was finding myself more and more critical of Garth Brooks. Now don't get me wrong, Mr. Brooks is very good (arguably great) at his style of music, and he legitimately entertains millions of people. But his music just wasn't my bag! And the more it was forced on me (as if saying "there's something wrong with you if you don't enjoy it!"), the more I disliked it.

    In the same way, the conventions of MMORPG's are generally too alien to your personality, too "against the grain," that you probably find them more grating than acceptable. Also, they are just a bit too "casual" for your liking.

    I will offer another analogy (I love analogies, as you may have noticed). Here it is: BOWLING!

    I went bowling with a group of friends not to long ago. Yes, it was fun, but it was more of a social "party" than a serious sporting escapade. Yes, we cheered every time someone got a strike, and laughed good-naturedly at gutter balls. But we spent a significant time discussing how city sales taxes were driving away business (wow, fun party, eh?). I don't recall much of the other discussions (mostly general chit-chat, jokes, and drinks), but the point is that we were casually bowling and having fun, but we weren't taking the game all that seriously, and it was a good excuse to be social. I think my three-game average was around 80 or so. Anyhow, I'll call this bowling session "the CASUAL game."

    Now here's the other side of the coin: "the SERIOUS game." A long time ago, I was invited to go bowling with a co-worker friend and his family. Being that this guy was a very lighthearted, funny, and fun-loving type, I figured it'd be a blast to bowl with him. What I discovered was that he, his wife, and his kid were SERIOUS bowlers!!! His league average was something like 220 or so, and rarely did he ever bowl under 180!!! And as a family of bowlers, they took the game very seriously, with most of their discussion to me revolving around bowling tips and such. (It didn't take, obviously!) Yes, there was some casual banter and jokes, but nowhere near as much as with the "party" bowlers. That's how they liked it; that's how they derived their pleasure from the "serious" game, and although they didn't show it, it's possible that they were annoyed at my lack of seriousness towards the game, or would have been if we bowled regularly together. Like I said, they played "the SERIOUS game."

    I think, in the case of CRPG's, you would qualify as a "serious" gamer. Probably most of the MMO players are "casual" gamers. Personally, if I were a MMO enthusiast, I think I would love the "casual" banter between players ("How's your kids?" "Did you see 'Dr. Who' last night?"). I don't think I could "role-play" a half-orc thief day in and day out without breaking character, nor would I enjoy it. I would totally annoy you. :-)

    As for the "self-discovery" angle of CRPG's, single or multi-player, I personally never consciously sought this in a game, but looking back, perhaps I was doing it unconsciously. I almost always play a human male "Paladin" character in CRPG's, MMO or otherwise. If a Paladin character isn't available, I play the closest equivalent. I am playing the character/class that is closest to my real-life persona: noble, brave, physically tough, and bound by a code of ethics. "Yeah, right, Rob, as if you're really like that in real life." Okay, maybe it's a bit of a fantasy stretch. :-) But it is how I would ideally like to be, and so I am, in a sense, playing my ideal self in these fantasy worlds, as if I'm asking the question "How would *I* really fare in such a scenario?"

    Single-player games offer more insular, "hypothetical" answers to this (and these questions). But what does the MMORPG have to teach us about ourselves in this regard? If you're seeking "self-discovery," you may be missing out on the answer(s) that MMO's can provide. Or, dare I say it, it may be the case (I don't know you well enough to state definitively) that your dislike and avoidance of MMO's may be itself an answer to a "self-discovery" question.

    So what have I learned by playing MMO's? I've learned that I'm generally VERY SHY of strangers, not initiating conversations with them, and not wanting to "step on their toes" and intrude on their fun. Not even a "hey, how ya doin?" or nothing from me. That's very true of me in real life. I don't talk to strangers in general, except strictly in a polite business sense. If someone OBVIOUSLY shares an interest of mine ("Hey, I see you're wearing an AMIGA T-shirt!!!"), I will usually approach and initiate conversation. Unless they are an attractive female, that is..... (shuddering with fright...). This "shy" aspect of me is probably inhibiting my enjoyment of MMO's. The social aspects are perhaps a bit too realistic for my comfort.

    If someone approaches ME, though, and breaks the ice, all defenses go down and I'm very social, open, and inviting... perhaps even "rowdy." And once I'm part of a "group," if someone "shy" reticently approaches, I will happily break the ice and say "hey, how ya doin? Come hang with us, these are my friends so and so, come be merry with us." This is the level I have not achieved yet in an MMO, but if I do, I'm sure my level of enjoyment will skyrocket.

    Well, I'll end this "book" here for now, even though you're blog post has so many more tangents that could be discussed. To boil it all down, I think the distillation of your "why I don't like MMORPGs" argument is that "you don't like MMORPG's." That may sound simplistic, but perhaps MMO's are just not your cup of tea. That's fine, but maybe one of them will click with you (or me). And hey, I don't like Garth Brooks' music....

    Shawn Delahunty
    Shawn Delahunty's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 08/01/2011
    That's not a "book" Rob, it's good posting.

    Hi Rob,

    Glad I didn't put you off (too much) with my insanely huge post. I think your summarization of my argument is inaccurate, but that's perhaps my fault--I suppose I didn't make a coherent, concise enough line of argumentation. I provided specific reasons why I find the MMORPG form unappealing, NOT to bash the MMORPG, but as a contrast to how I felt about the CRPG. (That whole "compare and contrast" thing from high-school English class.)

    I do have to object to your forceful and presumptuous characterization of me and my thinking in your first paragraph--it's utterly off-base. You state, uncategorically, that a part of me, "wishes I could enjoy [MMORPGs] like millions of other people..." and "...that I could join in the fun." Nope. Not even close. What I specifically DO wish for, was that the vast development resources which used to go into CRPGs wasn't dissipating--that it was as vibrant as the efforts being poured into the MMORPG sphere. That's it. I truly have zero inclination to "join in the fun" as you put it. Why? Because I'm too busy already having fun doing the things I enjoy.

    So why then, did I write the blog-post in first place? Self indulgence. A chance to throw something moderately controversial out there; to find out if anyone else felt similarly, and to find out why other folks might/would disagree. (Boy did I get more than I bargained for!) I certainly didn't write this post to "convince" anyone to change what they like--people are in fact free to NOT READ IT.

    My primary goal was to ponder what I find "Meaningful" in a CRPG. Where I muddied the water was dragging the whole MMORPG vs. single-player CRPG topic into the mix. I also didn't emphasize nearly enough, that everything I was discussing was applicable to ME ALONE. Based on the responses I've gotten, I'm convinced I utterly failed in my attempt. But that's why we do things; to try, to fail, to learn, and to ultimately succeed. I figure this will all serve to make me a better writer in the end.

    There are a couple other things in your response which raised questions in my noggin'. If I haven't pissed you off completely, I was hoping you might answer a couple:

    You state that my points about 'privacy' and 'digital distribution' are irrelevant to the "fun argument". I don't find them irrelevant at all. I am extremely curious how people are able to "forget" that their enjoyable activity could be taken away, arbitrarily, at any moment. (Sure, we could DIE at any moment too. But to me the issue is one of control. I can't control death, so I don't worry about it. But I can very much control some things in my life, through deliberate thinking and choices. I choose not to spend my fun-time on something so delicately dependent on the whims of companies that don't give a crap about me, save for my subscription dollars.)

    How do people ignore that they are being watched, studied, with the intent of "monetizing" them? How do you do it? Do you never think about it while in-game? Is the game-play experience in WoW/any-MMORPG ephemeral enough, that in 5 or 10 years you won't be bothered by it going away?

    I'm just not able to do that--that looming awareness is there with me, all the time. It's why I won't buy Diablo 3, despite loving 1 & 2. Knowing that my fun is at the whim and vagaries of Blizzard, sucks all the fun right out of the gameplay experience for me.

    One big mistake I made in this blog-entry was getting too serious with my tone--I think I should have gone for humor. In fact, I know it. All my yammering about "BE-ing" the experience, about figuring out "Who I am at my core," put too dark a slant on things. Hell, 98% of the time I play CRPGs for the thrill of it, for the pure escapist fantasy, to "slay orcs, save the princess, and find the amulet." I'm no different than most gamer nerds in that regard--I still start foaming and slobbering like Pavlov's Dog when I hear the "*Ding!*" of a loot-drop in Diablo.

    Lesson learned. Enough ramble, more gaming. Oh, just so you know, I don't like Garth Brooks music either. :-)

    Later!

    n/a
    Rowdy Rob
    Rowdy Rob's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 09/04/2006
    More comments
    bitsweep wrote:

    Hi Rob,

    Glad I didn't put you off (too much) with my insanely huge post.

    "Insanely huge" by what standards? Armchair Arcade's? Lots of "insanely huge" posts routinely occur here, and probably no one posts longer messages than me! The nature of the "deep" subjects that come up here often demands an in-depth post or response. In this case, there's no way to cover the topics and concepts you've brought up without some in-depth discussions. It's certainly better than just clicking the "like" button, anyway. And it's all part of the fun.... but unfortunately brevity is not my strong point.

    bitsweep wrote:

    I think your summarization of my argument is inaccurate, but that's perhaps my fault--I suppose I didn't make a coherent, concise enough line of argumentation.

    And perhaps it's mine, from a reading comprehension viewpoint. I picked up on a particular subject, extrapolated it, and went off on my own little tangent. Garth Brooks and bowling. :-)

    bitsweep wrote:

    I do have to object to your forceful and presumptuous characterization of me and my thinking in your first paragraph--it's utterly off-base. You state, uncategorically, that a part of me, "wishes I could enjoy [MMORPGs] like millions of other people..." and "...that I could join in the fun." Nope. Not even close.

    When I first posted that message, I went back and re-read it, and decided that it came off a bit harsh. I re-edited my post a bit (added a new first paragraph) to try to tone it down just a bit, but apparently you logged on and read my first version before I posted my "corrections." :-(

    Anyhow, the "forceful and presumptuous characterization" on my part was not intentional, just merely speculation for the sake of discussion. It was "tonally imprecise," and not meant as an attack on your character.

    bitsweep wrote:

    What I specifically DO wish for, was that the vast development resources which used to go into CRPGs wasn't dissipating--that it was as vibrant as the efforts being poured into the MMORPG sphere. That's it. I truly have zero inclination to "join in the fun" as you put it. Why? Because I'm too busy already having fun doing the things I enjoy.

    I think you're right in that MMO's are, and will continue to be, top dog as far as development efforts are concerned. I think the "casual single-player" CRPG will be more and more a niche market. "The needs of the many...." as Spock would put it. This may be lamentable, but game developers' primary goal is to create a money-making product, an MMO's appear to be where the money's at right now, at the expense of single players.

    Believe it or not, I'm not a big fan of multi-player games in general, and don't play the latest run-and-gun FPS's at all because they force multi-player on you. At least the MMORPGs give you the option of "soloing." That having been said, I've been playing "Stonekeep" recently, and I am enjoying it.

    bitsweep wrote:

    So why then, did I write the blog-post in first place? Self indulgence. A chance to throw something moderately controversial out there; to find out if anyone else felt similarly, and to find out why other folks might/would disagree. (Boy did I get more than I bargained for!) I certainly didn't write this post to "convince" anyone to change what they like--people are in fact free to NOT READ IT.

    My primary goal was to ponder what I find "Meaningful" in a CRPG. Where I muddied the water was dragging the whole MMORPG vs. single-player CRPG topic into the mix. I also didn't emphasize nearly enough, that everything I was discussing was applicable to ME ALONE. Based on the responses I've gotten, I'm convinced I utterly failed in my attempt.

    Please don't misunderstand the discussions generated by your piece as dismissal or disrespect of your viewpoints! Viewpoints are often open to challenge and debate, but they are valid viewpoints. CRPGs ARE getting less and less development emphasis over MMOs, and for "hardcore" CRPGers like yourself and Matt (and others), that IS lamentable.

    The case has been made that it is possible to play these MMO's in a single-player manner, probably with many significant compromises. Whether a "meaningful" gaming experience can be derived from an MMO might vary from person to person. In your case, you've stated quite clearly and compellingly the reasons why you haven't experienced "meaning" in the same degree as a good single-player CRPG.

    Me also. No MMO has approached Ultima, Baldur's Gate, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, The Witcher, or even Diablo or Oblivion in terms of personal satisfaction is concerned. The thing for me is, the CONCEPT of MMORPGs, the idea that I can game in a fantasy world with like-minded compatriots, is a very compelling idea! It just (so far) has not worked out that way in my experience. I never even tried WoW until they started offering a "free" client in the last month or so. "Dungeons & Dragons Online" offers a quite compelling single-player experience, in my opinion (more on that later), and is very close to getting "Oblivion" for free, though.

    bitsweep wrote:

    There are a couple other things in your response which raised questions in my noggin'. If I haven't pissed you off completely, I was hoping you might answer a couple:

    Bitsweep, in your short time posting here, you've made an impression as a thoughtful, well-meaning, fun, intelligent, considerate, and deep guy. I'm sure the "top brass" at AA is thrilled to have someone like you on-board! Nothing you've posted has even remotely come close to "pissing me off." That never even occured to me, and I can't imagine it has occurred to anyone else! This is all fun and challenging banter, and I take none of it personal. The few times I've ever been even mildly annoyed on AA were of messages not even directed at me!

    Likewise, nothing I ever say here is ever intended to piss people off. But, because "tone" is often hard (for me) to get across in mere words, I can say unintentionally offensive or outright weird things. It doesn't help that I used to post messages while drunk!

    Anyhow, I was quite amused to be used by you as representing the "common man" viewpoint when it comes to games, particularly CRPGs. It's probably true; my tastes in games, at least the single-player ones, tend to lean more "mainstream" than "hardcore." And being a "common man," my tastes in games are reasonably catered to. In other words: Diablo = YES, Dwarf Fortress = NO!

    bitsweep wrote:

    You state that my points about 'privacy' and 'digital distribution' are irrelevant to the "fun argument". I don't find them irrelevant at all. I am extremely curious how people are able to "forget" that their enjoyable activity could be taken away, arbitrarily, at any moment. (Sure, we could DIE at any moment too. But to me the issue is one of control. I can't control death, so I don't worry about it. But I can very much control some things in my life, through deliberate thinking and choices. I choose not to spend my fun-time on something so delicately dependent on the whims of companies that don't give a crap about me, save for my subscription dollars.)

    How do people ignore that they are being watched, studied, with the intent of "monetizing" them? How do you do it? Do you never think about it while in-game? Is the game-play experience in WoW/any-MMORPG ephemeral enough, that in 5 or 10 years you won't be bothered by it going away?

    In my case, it DOES bother me. When I install a program, I carefully read the EULAs for "gotchas," and I read the "privacy statements." It boils down to what level of intrusion and inconvenience I'm willing to accept. If WoW was tracking my banking and purchasing history, reading my emails, downloading my private writings and photos of me naked in the shower, and putting keyloggers and adware on my machine, then yes, that's totally unacceptable.

    Perhaps "irrelevant" was the wrong word for me to use. Privacy and permanent ownership of software are much larger computing issues than games. It appears "the CLOUD" is being pushed, where your office apps, game apps, movies, and even your personal "hard drive" contents (writings, drawings, photos, etc.) will be stored IN THE CLOUD. Rather than buying a DVD, you're going to have to stream it. Same with games and productivity apps. And when "Big Brother" takes over, at the flick of a switch, your access to all your programs and data will be shut off!

    But when I'm playing a game, I don't have "Big Brother" in the back of my mind as I'm hacking away at orcs. As Matt has said before, WoW is an "historical" game, and I thought it's best for me to experience it in its prime, before it "goes away," as you have suggested. I agreed to the EULA terms, and then I'm off to questing.

    bitsweep wrote:

    I'm just not able to do that--that looming awareness is there with me, all the time. It's why I won't buy Diablo 3, despite loving 1 & 2. Knowing that my fun is at the whim and vagaries of Blizzard, sucks all the fun right out of the gameplay experience for me.

    I buy games occasionally through the "Steam" service. Actually, I have a fair collection of "Steam" games now. In the back of my mind, it DOES bother me that the plug might be pulled one day, and it's possible that I might not be able to play the games I've purchased. But, when you get a crazy deal on a game ("Half Life 2" for $5!!!), it's hard to pass up, and it's probably a game I'll play through once and move on.

    In the case of the newer games, it is indeed enraging that games such as Diablo 3, a game that you would presumably purchase on physical media, would need such an inconvenient system. It's pointless to buy a "physical media" game if the publisher exerts such draconian control over your freedom to play your own purchase.

    The reason I said such concerns were "irrelevant" (poor choice of word) pertaining to MMOs is because if the privacy and "permanent game ownership/existence" concerns were addressed or eliminated, I think the core game mechanics of MMORPGs would still be no less off-putting to you, based on what you've posted. The actual MMO games themselves don't light your fire. The "griefers" would still be there, the difficulty in finding true "role-players" would still be there, the lack of turned based strategy would still be there, the lack of "build your own party" would still be there, and the "monetization" would still be there in some form. And, of course, the emphasis on MMOs over single-player experiences would still be there. Make no mistake, those are very valid viewpoints and concerns!

    bitsweep wrote:

    One big mistake I made in this blog-entry was getting too serious with my tone--I think I should have gone for humor. In fact, I know it. All my yammering about "BE-ing" the experience, about figuring out "Who I am at my core," put too dark a slant on things. Hell, 98% of the time I play CRPGs for the thrill of it, for the pure escapist fantasy, to "slay orcs, save the princess, and find the amulet." I'm no different than most gamer nerds in that regard--I still start foaming and slobbering like Pavlov's Dog when I hear the "*Ding!*" of a loot-drop in Diablo.

    Well, what you wrote was entertaining, thought-provoking,well-written, and enlightening, no matter what tone you posted it under.

    By the way, if you want to try a very "single-playerish" MMORPG, I suggest you give "Dungeons & Dragons Online" a whirl. If games like "Elder Scrolls: Oblivion" hold any appeal to you, then you'll probably have fun with this game, because it plays very similarly. "D&D Online" is certainly harder-core than WoW, and there appears to be no "waiting in line" at all. When you enter a "dungeon," an "instance" is generated where you're all alone to explore, fight monsters, and loot. You'll see no one else in an "instance." You can spend hours (or days?) in an instance by yourself. In my mind, "D&D Online" IS a single-player game, and dungeon-crawling is very fun! You'll see other players in town and such, but if you think of them as NPC's, they are not at all an intrusion. "D&D Online" is a "free-to-play" MMO, so no costs up front to play. If the Eula/privacy is not objectionable, and if the fact that it won't be around 10 years from now is not too bothersome, then it might be worth checking out.

    Matt Barton
    Matt Barton's picture
    Offline
    Joined: 01/16/2006
    Shawn, I understand where

    Shawn, I understand where you're coming from about the game going away. It might not even be that drastic--just a big exodus OR influx of people could change the gameplay experience, as would a significant change to the world or gameplay. Star Wars Galaxies hit that, er, cataclysm after an infamous patch made a lot of stuff worthless, and think of the people who got all into Tabula Rasa. But I think something along the lines of EVE is what you should be looking at it, since they seem (IMO) the most corrupt or at least possibly corrupt of the big games.

    More to the point, though, shameless GREED does ruin my gameplay experience. I tried out Farmville and Cityville and found them entertaining, even enjoyable, but eventually just got fed up with the constant, in-your-face requests for money or, worse, efforts to get me to spam everyone I know for Zynga's benefit. Enough is enough; I'm playing games to make me happy, not to make somebody else richer.

    I was ready for WOW in some ways because I did play MUDs a lot in college, and IMO MUDs, not CRPGs, are the origin of WOW and MMORPGs. In fact, I'd LOVE for them just to be called MUDs today because that's a better acronym than MMORPGs.

    By the way, I was VERY skeptical of WOW and all the games with monthly subscriptions for the longest time. I was also, by the way, anti-mobile phone, because (a) I couldn't afford another bill and (b) didn't want to be available anywhere, anytime. When I moved here, though, I said, what the hell, and got a mobile phone. About five minutes later I was kicking myself for not getting one before. Just so damnably useful! And the privacy thing was never an issue; just turn off the ringer and/or phone; problem solved.

    The monthly subscriptions were another matter. I hated the idea of having to continuously pay money and never owning a game. But one of my friends here just kept on and on--finally, there was a WOW promotion where you could play for 10 days IIRC. Now it's a HELLUVA lot better deal; I think you can play for free until level 40 or something. But anyway, I told myself I'd play for 10 days and if I liked it enough to pay for it, I'd try it for a month; then if I liked it still, I'd just subscribe.

    For the first day I played for a few hours and was not at all impressed. I kept scratching my head and saying, what's so great about this? I was pestering my friend (who was online) about stuff, how to do this, how to do that; I really should've just figured it out myself. You kinda want to figure stuff out quickly since there's a kind of excitement and buzz to the game; you see people flitting around everywhere being productive and want to get in there and do it yourself.

    I think it was around level 20 or so that it really got its hooks into me, though. By that point, I had just enough understanding to realize that I was at the very beginning of what was going to be a HUGE and EPIC journey to level 70. Even better, I had created a second character (a mage instead of a warrior), and was quickly seeing the mage was a ton more fun for me, so I got her up past my warrior. By the time I got her to 70 and was doing a little raiding, my best friend IRL got on WOW (entirely by coincidence).

    Max and I decided to create two new characters, on the horde side, and play through those together. That way it'd be new for both of us. We had voice chat so we could talk while we played, and of course two old buds like us could talk forever ANYWAY. Put us in a game world like that and holy @$@, did we have fun. At the endgame we did some PVP and arena type stuff, but eventually got into doing instances with him as the tank and me as the healer. I think his computer blew up or something, though, so we eventually quit. We got back into it again earlier this summer, but his computer blew up again, and that was that. It's so much fun playing with him, though, that I just can't get up enough interest to play again solo. The bug could strike at any time, though.

    But I've said it before and I'll say it again, WOW is THE PC GAME of our decade, and you really are missing out an important bit of history if you don't ever try it. I'm not saying you need to play it for weeks or months, but you'll feel pretty silly when you're 50 and somebody asks if you ever played WOW and you have to say no. It'd be like someone in the 60s not ever listening to the Beatles, or a (gasp) child of the 80s who never saw Star Wars or E.T. You just don't DO THAT.

    So, get the trial membership thing, play to level 30 or 40--should take a few weeks at most. I would be shocked if you didn't have a similar experience to me, moving from extreme skepticism to ambivalence to mild interest to HOLY @#$2.

    n/a
    clok1966
    Offline
    Joined: 01/21/2009
    read it all, I must say (to

    read it all, I must say (to start) all you guys are great. I do feel like the (how do i put this) the 1st grader in a room full of scientsts. You all do such a great job of getting your point across I feel like my typing skills (and lack of spell check (I am very slowly trying to incorperate Chrome into my life)) and lack of skills getting my point across is a burden for some of you to read.. You guys are just to good. ok.. brown nosing over.

    YOu do mention the MULTI- Player part of the games.. and this is where it really gets sticky. Everquest was "the" game to me.. as far as MMOPRG's go.. much like DUNE II defined my RTS for me.. Dune II is jut like that first GF... somethng you will rembere forever.. Personlay Red ALert II is my favorite RTS.. but DUNE II would get mentioned by me far sooner in any talk about RTS's. Everquest is the same for me with MMOPRG's it defined the MMORPG gametype for me. For me it was always the exploring, the new monsters, the new dungeons, the new equipmnet the new spells with the levels. I was lucky and had 4-5 friends who played it with me. I made new freinds and back then I still think the player base was much nicer... and my trip "back" a year ago ... while unsuprisingly was short lived as Everquest hasnt aged very well. The people where still very nice that I talked too, far nicer then any time in WOW.

    With that said, WOW is the ruler the rest are judged by, good or bad. I know people all expcect different things from RPG's, and I think that might be WoW's strentgh.... as I said, its very easy to achive max level and never talk to another soul. Of course you will run into griefers, asshats and the like, myslef I just move on and come back later. And yes, I agree, imerrsion broke sorta.. one can look at it as ASSHAT or .. as we said Roll Play its the evil shierrif keeping you off the kings land,, figh the law (or him) or move on as you know much like in the past, you cant beat the king (so to speak).. But that begs to ask, I pay, shouldnt I get to play how I want? All things you just have to deal with and decide if you want too.

    I too enjoyed the table with 4-6 good friends and some D&D. And yes I have attempted ot relive those days, but sadly to little success. My "old" friends are all long gone to otehr states, lives, etc.. but I have made new ones. And (sterotype incomming) I work in a tech field with programers and other tech guys , we have about 40 programers in our company that I work with and 5-7 of them are RPG guys.. I have played with them, but my original group was very "lose" so the speak, while a gamein session consisted of 90% "normal" play there as 10% jokes, crude and otherwise, pranks and what not. This new group doesnt much like any "lose" gameplay.. the rules or nothing.. which is still quite fun.. but can be a bit restritcing from time to time.. I would imagein each of us have differnt groups we have played with, and no two would follow the same "unspoken" game rules that one of theo others wouldnt like. In teh end I think MMORPG's are much the same.. with so many players some will rub you wrong with their playstyle. And I guess that is the question we have to ask... do I want to be annoyed and try to see the game, or do i want to just rembere the old days?

    I wont deny almost every game I play just will never "live up" to those early games, I still stand by my assesment, that a combonation of age, timing and luck. That first Video game we truely loved, that First AD&D session with friends.. that first car, first GF (or BF) etc.. those feelings ar so strong and pronounced we all want to recreate them, but I dont think we can.

    I think sometimes we all feel we should like stuff becuase others do (wow is the king of MMORPG's and while I loved EQ, i cant say WOW isnt better in alot of ways.. when WoW came out I hated it, spoon feed gameplay, no challange, no pnelty for death, levels happned as fast as you could blink, quests didnt require teamwork, equipment dropped ( and was giving ) to you almost every minute.. cash was no problem.. it was kindergarten EQ.. far to easy.. But as you start to compare the two.. is it bad you level fast, get equeipment easy, and dont feel you have to SPEND HOURS (and i do mean hours) grinding money or levels or equipment? In the end thats for each of us to decide.. but in the end (for me) WoW is the best of the CURRENT MMOPRG's.. Not in all ways, but overall. Mybe thata lesson there too, live with the good and bad, we added PEOPLE to our RPG's! I do know that iw one reason the MMORPG can fail the old school RPG'er.. WE MADE that party, we picked the skills, we made ALL the descions. In a MMORPG you depend on others to do thier job,a nd not everybody does, if you messed up in the old days, you knew who's fualt it was and you controled it, in teh new MMO games you cant control that idiot who is bored and doing stupid stuff and .. ya, it gets ot me too. Or worse, you are doing your best and people are still whineing like ungreased gear.. they have played so long if EVERY singel thing doenst go PERFECT they start to get all crappy.. (that is the problem I hate more than griefers) I hate the "better then you" attitude so many player have. I start to do the "shitty" thing and start thinking they are basemtn dwelling losers who do nothing but WOW all day long. Whne most likley they are just like me and feed up with game or bad players and are taking it on me.. Maybe I could play with them 100 times and they would be the nicest people in the world.. but that one day was bad.. I guess int eh end I keep thingking MOST people are nice.. and I keep hoping it. but MMOPRGS is quite honeslty probebly not the best place to look for that..

    As I suggested the 3 i mentiond are all Free and WOW liked.. but you may perefer differnt gameplay. YOu said AD&D with people.. well AD&D online is the closest you will get to that (and sorry, its not as close as most table top people would like). I do think if you have the time ( most of us dont and I suspect you dont either) there are quite honestly 100's of free to play ones you can try.

    We all have to judge what we like oursleves, it does seem you are not intereted in this sytel of gameplay. I ahve alwasy thouhgt a MMORPG like WOW but deeper questlines and JUST CITIES to interact would be cool ( yes Tourchlight or the Defunct Dungeon Runners kind of fit this bill. I miagein a world as well layed out as WOW, but a 3D top down turn based combat system (like old school rpg's, or even Dragojn age) wher you control 4 players would be quite cool. Go to major cities and just a singel avater would show and you could interatc with others /auction house/banks etc..

    But that will never happen. I think all our sicussion just shows.. there is a market for somthing other than WOW part II.. but will anybody attempt it? I doubt it.. WoW's success has pretty much gaurantied non stop clones for a long time.

    Comment viewing options

    Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.