I sat in front of my computer the other night, not really feeling a pull toward any MMO. I was watching Zombieland, and I couldn’t think of any MMO that would be more fun than watching the best comedy zombie movie since Shaun of the Dead. Blahblahblah. This isn’t a post about quitting MMOs.
This is a post about WILLING IMMERSION.
I talked a little about this yesterday. Immersion can seem like a quality of a game, but it’s really a quality of the player. Even the best game is nothing like reality; it’s as far removed from reality as anything can be. To make it important to us, we have to willingly fill in the lines, paint the walls, paper the ceiling and give it a place in our reality. You might argue that games can help immersion by having fantastic graphics, amazing sound design and killer animations, but I have been immersed in books before. I have immersion to spare; all I really ask of a game is that it doesn’t BREAK my immersion.
When I sat in my chair not playing an MMO the other night, it wasn’t because there weren’t many excellent options available. I was not playing an MMO because I wasn’t willing to risk immersing myself in any of them.
So today I’m going to be a little indulgent, go over the choices, and see if I can figure out which one should get the majority of my gaming time.
Dungeons & Dragons Online
Turbine’s Dungeons & Dragons Online brings the pencil-and-paper game to life with a (now) free to play MMO. Though not perfect by any means, no other game in this post lets you customize your character’s growth in more ways. I have a static group that plays for a couple of hours each Sunday, but the game is paced slowly enough that I’d be unlikely to outstrip them in levels, and there are benefits to grouping with people who have already unlocked the harder modes of a dungeon. The game is free to play, but some content must be bought. It seems unlikely, however, that the cost of purchasing content as needed in DDO would approach the $15/month of a standard MMORPG. DDO can also be played almost entirely with a PC gamepad and has optional hirelings to fill out a group or help out when soloing.
Down sides: My graphics card has serious problems with the game. Sometimes it looks great, and then the game is irreparably plunged into near total darkness. Even when well-lit, the game looks atrocious. I would prefer simpler graphics that look better over complex graphics that look crude. This is the same mistake made by EverQuest 2 in its early years, though with less plastic and more grind.
World of Warcraft
Blizzard’s World of Warcraft is the most popular subscription-based game of any sort in the entire world. More has been written about this one game than all other MMOs, ever. There is more help available for WoW than any other, and the only other MMO that can even sometimes compete in the non-MMO news outlets is EVE Online. Playing WoW would mean I would be playing the game most people think of when they think of MMOs at all. The game runs and looks great on my computer. WoW’s quest design set the standard for all other games of its generation. WoW sets the style and the very, very highly placed bar for the entire genre.
To really play this, I’d have to leave my vanity guild, “Snacks for the Horde”, and look for another. I think I know enough people that I could land in a guild that was a good match, where people might overlook the fact that I really suck at WoW. My only real objection? What could I possibly blog about? Playing WoW is death for a blogger, since every possible angle is covered by hundreds of bloggers. By playing WoW, you instantly become just a statistic, a very small fish in a very large, world-encompassing ocean. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; it was fun going to UBRS and shouting Leroooooy! Or doing Onyxia and yelling MORE DOTS! Or raiding Molten Core with the confident knowledge that all around the world, hundreds of thousands of people were raiding MC at the very same instant.
Star Trek Online
I added Star Trek Online to this list because it had grabbed me for a month, but since I reached max level, I haven’t felt a real need to log back in. Sure, I’d love to see the raidisodes, but the chatter reminds me too much of WoW. Must use vent, must use teamspeak, must have done this before, must have this piece of gear, blah blah blah. Before I can do any of that, I would need to farm marks of exploration for the purple gear required, but…. to me, Star Trek Online is finished until they add more content to the Klingon faction or add the Romulans. I no longer feel the need to raid, but the leveling up was a lot of fun. I’ll still play on a casual basis and maybe even try to get a pickup group for the raidisodes, but it could never be my main game.
If it were easier to meet people in the game, it might be a different story, but I went forty five levels in that game and only found a couple of people who’d managed to find a guild, and neither of them sounded like they got anything from it. There were plenty of guilds spamming for members in the game’s final zone of Gamma Orionis, but it’s hard to choose a guild based solely on guildspam.
EVE Online is the deepest, most strategic MMO going. It is the one game where one player’s actions truly could change the game world and even end up on the evening news. No other game comes close to EVE Online in depth and complexity. But with all that, even the newest player can fill important roles. You don’t need to grind levels for four months to get to the end game; all you have to do is set your autopilot to take you to null security space.
When OtakuDyne was an active corp, I was powerfully drawn in to EVE. When it died, I drifted away, because without people to play with, there’s very little reason to play.
With 12 million skill points on my main and 6 million on my alt, I have enough training to apply to a decent corp. Unfortunately, all the ones I know of are in nullsec, and I suck at PvP. Further, some bad investments have left me without enough ISK to really recover once nullsec destroys all my ships. Given that what I like best in the game is building things, it may be that Skyforge (which, according to their recruitment thread, is mostly looking for more cannon fodder to throw at their enemies) and Holowan (which appears to be mostly dead itself) are not good matches. I’m always going to suck at PvP because I don’t care enough about it to learn to do it well. Since EVE is built on PvP, it could be that a game I hold in the highest regard is just about done with me, even though I am not done with it.
Still, I would really, REALLY like to be an integral part of a fleet heading to defend some critical piece of space. How do I reconcile not liking PvP with wanting to be part of a fleet action? I do not. I am large. I contain multitudes.
Most of what I don’t like about EVE PvP, aside from the inevitability of my death, is having to farm enough money to build and fit a new ship. That can take days. Boring days doing boring stuff. Just to have it get blown up in a moment? There is no up-side to that.
For a couple of months, I was in the best EQ2 guild EVER, Clan of Shadows. I loved that guild. Unfortunately, they didn’t love me back and my application was eventually overwhelmingly denied. After trying out a couple of other guilds and servers, I eventually pretty much gave up on ever finding a guild that good and moved on to other games.
Returning to EQ2 would mean looking for a guild again, and overcoming the handicap of sucking at EQ2 as badly as I suck at WoW. EQ2 (like WoW) has a very quick pace at odds with the slower, more enjoyable paces of DDO, EVE and STO. Performing at less than 100% efficiency, like a perfect cog in a perfect machine, gets you booted from groups. I just don’t know if I can take that pace for very long. On the other hand, casual guilds tend not to have a focus that gives me something to work for. I don’t feel any real desire to do boring stuff just because the game wants me to; if I’m not having fun, I’m counting the seconds until I can log off.
To return to EQ2, I’d have to find that perfect guild. For the right guild, I would do anything, be there every night, help out as much as I could. Like I did when I was in Clan of Shadows. /sigh.
Though it wasn’t my first MMO — Nexus, Kingdom of the Wind holds that dubious honor — EverQuest was the first game that demanded my total gaming attention. For seven years I played EQ, with occasional breaks for Dark Age of Camelot and other temporary flings. I was in some of the best guilds on two servers; United Norrath Coalition, Divine Grace, A Twist of Fate and Crimson Eternity on Erollisi Marr; Lost Sock Patrol and Viking Alliance on Stromm. Finding a nice spot in a dungeon, pulling mobs, hoping for rare drops and chatting and making friends; that was heaven. Helping coordinate massive raids to take down unimaginably dangerous opponents requiring unheard of teamwork; that was also heaven. EQ was the only MMO I ever felt I was good at.
But I just got burned out. For all my love for the game, the incessant guild drama as we tried to stay in the upper echelons of Erollisi Marr raiding guilds (I am talking here of Crimson Eternity, my final guild in EQ), the raids that stopped being exciting kill fests and more about heavily scripted, WoW-style exercises in following the correct steps to win, and ugly, ugly places like the Prophecy of Ro expansion which just sucked all life from the game for me….
Just. Burned. Out.
I logged into EQ tonight to take some pictures for this article, and found three people from the guild online — Sispis, Achernar and Dalomite/Dalanan — and they told me they’ve been playing EQ on a casual basis for a few weeks now, and they have room for a rogue. EQ now lets people level up in “classic” missions where you take on the gear of a level 50 character back when level 50 was the level cap, and are sent to clear out the classic dungeons that no longer exist in that form. And apparently you can take the NPC hirelings along with you to fill out your group.
So, shocker of shockers. There’s this chance I might end up right back where I began.
It’s between EVE, EQ and EQ2 at this point. My brain says EVE, but my heart says I should give EQ another try first. I’m not sure which to listen to.