Monday, May 23, 2011

Why I played the first 100 hours

Playing The Witcher 2 for the last few days, I remembered, why I like MMORPGs so much. And, no, it's not the fact that they are massive. And it's not the fact that they are multiplayer, either. In, fact, it's not even because they are online.

Before instances and teleporting were at their current level, MMORPGs had vast landscapes - that made sense visiting. Also, you could never save a MMORPG - instead they had (more or less) credible consequences for death. So, as hard to believe as it may be, I used to love MMORPGs, because their nature made them better at the simulation aspect than single player games. Also, you can just play a MMORPG. There is no story that is suddenly finished. In some way, original World of Warcraft was a really big Elder Scrolls game. Much worse at immersion, much better at gameplay, but still a really, really, big virtual fantasy world. This is why I fell in love with it.

The most fun activity I know in a RPG setting is to explore a dark dungeon, trying to survive all on my own. There are no AAA single player games that offer this experience for some time now and MMORPGs just used be reasonably good at it.
For some reason, dungeons in MMORPG are nowadays all group content, but there is still the open world. Of course, this one has been destroyed for all practical gameplay purposes in WoW, but in Rift the open world is still on health support. That's better than nothing.

Interestingly, I never played MMORPGs solely for the simulation aspect. About ten years ago, I used to play first person shooter multiplayer deathmathes for hours on end. This had nothing to do with role playing or immersion, of course. It was just a game, a distraction. MMORPGs managed to join my deathmatch playing habits with my love for RPGs: Battlegrounds.

I probably spent more time in battlegrounds in WoW than anywhere else. And I never had a problem with them being instanced or hardly credible, because I never played deathmatch for simulation purposes in the first place. I played them for the flow of it.

Nowadays I find that I play MMORPGs almost entirely for the battlegrounds. Which is, obviously, a shame. The Witcher remembered me how much fun a dungeon crawl can be - especially with nowadays graphics and sound technology! But I finished The Witcher now and the dungeons are just too limited to be fun a second time. In fact, the dungeons aren't even a major part of the game and the gameplay is too lacking to play the game after you know the (brilliant) story.

You might be surprised that I didn't mention my guild and online friends so far. The truth is that these were great motivators to keep playing for a long time. But they weren't the reason I started to play MMORPGs. They weren't the reason to play the first 100 hours.


  1. I guess it was same reasons I started play MMOs. I always longed for better Daggerfall.
    At one point I imagined fully simulated world with complex quests emerging from clever scripts. Alas
    there are some old chunks of Watcom C++ code lying around as a testament that procedural worlds aint as easy to make as they are to imagine

    An MMOs seemed the the answer -why have procedural generation of fake quests when you can have real people create real ones?

    In my first MMO (asheron's call) the world was amazing. It was seamless ,it had rivers, deserts , forests ,jungles ,mountains. It felt oh so real . Combined with somewhat dynamic storyline it seemed that next generation would be the dream come true.

    But game mechanics were broken already -all the mob grind, loot pinatas, spawn camping. The EQ was worse version of AC with inferior technology ,more focus on items and grind

    And then in 2004 came WoW. fixing all the bad parts but also removing the world part. Throwing the baby out with the water. It only become worse over time and by woltk no world was left whatsoever

  2. "no world was left whatsoever"

    So wait, it's all instanced now? Funny, when I played a couple of months ago, I could still walk across the continent and fly around Azeroth. There were caves without anything in them, but there were also places to go that no quest bothered to point out.

    If it's all instanced now, with no world, well... bummer.