Since I’m not playing World of Warcraft, I’ve tried a number of free-2-play MMO’s and various trials for the pay-to-play MMO games and I’m starting to realise that my original thought that the MMO’s are becoming tired, and dull is probably not the case. After all, they all have enough clients to keep them going, and in gaming terms the more people it has, chances are the better the game is. Anyway, I know now that it’s not them it’s me, I’m the one who’s tired and bored. Tired and bored with having to play what I consider to be a generic gaming experience with thousands of other people, when I could be having a unique and totally me-centric gaming experience with all my single player non-MMORPG games.
Multiplayer game’s have their advantages of course, a great many of them in fact, such as group shared experiences, a more rapid and consistence change of content as well as not actually having a traditional ending to the game, you can at least in theory play forever. However all of the experiences within an MMO have to fit within a very rigid set of rules and guidelines, purely because you are dealing with so many people. The solo game experience has just as many rules and restrictions of course, but these restrictions revolve around you as a single player rather than you as purely a demographic.
For example, lets compare World of Warcraft (One of the biggest MMO’s out there, just in case you’ve been living under a rock) and FallOut: New Vegas (Bethesdas follow-up to the post-apocalyptic RPG Fallout 3.) Though, I could probably choose any of the modern MMO and RPGs for comparison.
In World of Warcraft, you could argue there isn’t a way to be evil. Even the side which could be seen to be more stereotypically ‘bad’, have their reasons for any violent/antisocial/warlike behaviour, be it honour, survival etc. As a member of the Horde, you cannot walk into one of the Horde villages and slaughter everyone in there, just for the sake of being evil. You can’t then revisit that village later on and watch them shake with fear or see it as abandoned ruins. NPC’s of your own race cannot even be attacked, except in a few quest-based cases. Any killing you can do is done for a good or honourable reason or under the flag of war. Also, anything you do will have been done by thousands of other people via the same quest chain as yourself. Even with WoW’s phasing technology (which means the landscape changes as you progress with various quests) you still know that the changes were going to happen anyway, and that you didn’t really cause it with your own actions.
In FallOut: New Vegas, I walked into a completely (then) friendly settlement and killed everyone with a pool cue, stealing anything I could of value. Sure a few quests were failed, and now the local law enforcement are after me, but I could do those things and the consequences of those actions were for me to see and play with for the rest of the game.
I’m also not just talking about bad actions although I have to admit the previous comparisons do not hold me in a good rpg-gaming light. I’m also taking about positive interactions as well, your standard MMO characters cannot fall in love, own a business or just become a big hero. Almost be definition, some of the big bosses in MMOs can take whole groups of people to take them down, you can’t really call yourself the hero, heroic certainly, but not the hero. Exceptions could be scripted into the game and I’m sure there are player-created roleplaying methods for any number of those scenarios, but these have been created and generated by the players themselves, and are nearly always crow-barred in using the already provided gaming mechanics so they’re never a complete fit.
I’m also not saying that this is wrong and that an individual player should have the same ability to change the world in an MMO, If any game even tried to implement that you would have the gaming equivalent of anarchy. Even if it were possible for a single player to have so much impact on the game, you would have to have a more visible end point. Just to put an end to the individual characters social, or plot driven development. What I am essentially saying, is that MMO’s are good for one type of gaming and solo games are good for another.
Maybe one day they will create an MMO, where every player gets their own planet and they can do whatever they want on it. Their actions change the world, and both NPC and players react and interact accordingly. Although, in that scenario what’s to stop higher level players obliterating other lower-level planets with their spaceships and star destroyers… or just how would interaction between players even work. Oh yeah, they’d add some demographically created restrictions, wouldn’t they…
Maybe this was all part of my MMO gaming addiction and I’ve now found the equivalent of Methadone, or maybe I have been focussing on the wrong area of gaming. Whatever it is, I am enjoying being fawned over in my games. After primarily playing an MMO of some kind for so many years, it’s nice having all the responsibility and having the experience, both in and out of the game, revolve around me for a change. I only play when I want to; when I load up the save game everything is there exactly how I left; I didn’t miss any daily quests and the people I met are still exactly where I left them. There is also no cut-and-thrust, I am competing with no-one except myself.
So my advice is, if you don’t know which MMO to play, then don’t play any. Be selfish for a while…. let games revolve around you and let yourself be the centre of the NPC’s universe … it’s very refreshing.