Gosh, who are those slick looking haffers, decked in Tier 1 mastercrafted gear?
Them haffers are my new characters on Nagafen, EQ2’s most popular PvP server. I level locked them at level 10 while I get some AAs, but finishing quests has bumped Tipa (the fury in the foreground) to level 11, with Tsuki (the wizard to the right) not far behind, and both with three AAs already…
My guild on Befallen, the non-PvP server where my high level characters live, is dying. Summer kills guilds, but this particular one was helped along by a seven day a week raiding policy. Now we’re down to one or two raids a week, of old content, and guilds which are a troub short looking for a short troub…
Guild troubles depress me. Lately, I’ve just been logging in and listening to Vent while watching TV or playing Pokemon Diamond on my DS (the multiplayer features are pretty fun… my son sets traps all around me when I am mining in the underworld, one of the several multiplayer parts of the game. I get my revenge by mining his nodes.)
My first night outside the newbie zones, I was creeping through Antonica, looking for some tier 2 nodes for crafting. Out of NOWHERE comes this dark elf mounted on an armored horse, glaring at me, wanting to kill me but unable to because I’m level 10… he growls something, then… steals my node… and rides off…
I’m in the MMO doldrums. I’m increasingly cynical about games built around a grind — these days, if there’s a grind, it’s there on purpose. The devs want you standing around doing boring stuff for little or no reward. I feel more and more like logging in to an MMO is a waste of my time. I can’t see how in EQ1, EQ2 or WoW that it is possible to enjoy raiding, want to see all the content, and yet still have any sort of other interests.
I left WoW because of the incredibly awful amount of time I had to spend playing in order to progress, combined with the low skill of pickup groups. Lemme tell ya, being the only healer in a random pickup BRD run is something you do once… non stop abuse from the rest of the group combined with an offer to join their guild at the end… uh-huh… Plus the heavily scripted raid encounters where there was one way to do this, the required add-in would tell you when to do everything — which was to press either my “cure” button or my “heal” button, or move to a new spot…
WoW was the worst. EQ1 was pretty bad, but at least there was a huge variety on raid strategies, plus the raids were large enough to be fun social gatherings in their own right. EQ2 usually allows one flagged person to zone in an entire raid, but the 24 person cap on raid size limits the number of strats you can try, same as WoW.
I’ve been thinking a bit about what brings people to log in to an MMO, again and again.
Number one has got to be friends. A chance to spend time with friends is never time wasted and is nearly always enjoyable; it doesn’t even really matter what you’re doing. There was always some psycho kid at the table who was playing D&D so seriously you wondered if he knew it was a game, but everyone else was there to have the kind of fun where being an odd duck just made you one of the crowd. Where, even in real life, we called each other by our mainframe account names (“Albatross”, “Wicked Lady”, “Ridgerunner”, “Kirin”, “Mediator”, “Nomad”, “Ruler”…)
Gaming was something you did with friends — even single player games like ADVENT or DUNGEON or EMPIRE or the hundreds of little games we’d write — we’d play them in UNH’s McConnell computer cluster, comparing notes, listening to loud music and Doctor Demento and eating carboard pizza.
In the real world, my parents were getting divorced, I was running out of money and real life was about to hit; but in the computer clusters, I could make my own worlds and share them with friends. And my worlds could be everything real worlds weren’t.
So: I have always thought of MMOs as ways to get back to that circle of friends, all working together creatively, making a place where the real world wasn’t welcome. I guess I have always thought of MMOs as being a little slice of those endless evenings back at McConnell cluster.
Current-day MMOs are doing a pretty poor job of scratching that itch. By promoting solo play over group play, you don’t easily form those friendships. Since you never went through any hardships together (or really, any hardships whatsoever), you never got the bonding that comes when you’re part of a team, and know you can rely on your friends and that they can rely on you.
By the time raiding rolls around, you’re in a guild of independent agents made up of people who see you only as a means to getting gear for themselves. And the moment it looks like another guild might benefit them more — off they go. Every player for themself. Guilds came and went like the wind in WoW. The top players would join a guild en masse, insist that the guild attempt harder and harder targets and demand astonishing dedication — the casual players would bail and eventually those who couldn’t keep the pace would be booted until the guild was left serving the interests of these few people, who would then leave for another guild, leaving a dead guild behind them.
Friendships could have saved that guild, or made it wise enough not to invite these people in a pathetic attempt at the limelight, but it’s a game without attachments.
I’ve been playing EQ2 for over two years now, and still feel more for the people I spent half a decade with in EQ1 then I do for anyone in EQ2. In EQ1, grouping was everything. You had to know who you were grouping with, and your own rep was vitally important — a bad rep could ruin you. Take a ninja AFK in the Bastion of Thunder and your group would wipe. Take a group to kill all four wing nameds before other groups even knew they’d popped and you could get a group any time, any where.
But grouping is dead, nine million WoW players can’t be wrong. Friendships are worthless. The social itch people scratch withÂ games, more and more unmet. Perhaps that’s why I play them less and less.
I know — I’m wrong, 9 million people are right, solo is the way to go, every player for themself is the way to win, if the game isn’t easy, people will bail and go back to WoW, and if it IS easy, people will complain it’s just like WoW — and go back to WoW.
It’s dead, it’s wrong, the MMO world has turned onto a short road leading off a tall cliff. Pirates of the Burning Sea has levels, did you know? And you can level to 50, and raid, and get raid loot, and all that good stuff, and I’m thinking… huh? That’s all you could come up with? WoW on water?
Starting next week, I’m going to be covering issues that I believe would bring the social back to MMOs.
The first one will be — unsurprisingly — groups.
I don’t believe in them…