Was listening to a podcast today, and the subject came up regarding “catching up” to other players in an MMO, and questioning whether it was worth playing the game since everyone else had gone on to the higher levels. I believe the quote was something like “the game had passed them by” and so they would probably not give the game a try. I remember this same feeling as a latecomer to World of Warcraft; the game had been out for years – two expansions were already out, and I was just figuring out the game at first level. Thankfully, my brother, a longtime gamer took pity on me and rolled up a low-level character to show me the ropes. Over the following days, I realized how much patience he had to have to come to those early stages of the game; I was learning everything – how to play my toon, to the trinity, to how dungeons worked, grinding. It was fun at first, but over time, I could see he wanted to get back to his primary character, and eventually, I ended up leveling on my own.
Some of the most fun times I’ve had playing World of Warcraft (WoW) have been running dungeons with our guild. My brother and I and several friends would group up and tackle a few of them every Sunday morning, and it truly was an event. I’d grab my coffee and don the Ventrilo and we’d be off, joking as we made our way through the trash mobs on our way to the bosses. The camaraderie was a big part of the session but a big part of the fun, for me at least, was tackling the dungeons in the area we were already adventuring in. I had already finished up the questing in a number of the surrounding zones, knew the story and background of the area, and finishing the dungeons was a nice way to wrap up those storylines, as the bosses frequently were the final bad guys in those quest chains. The dungeons were the culminations of those tales. The trouble for me started when we began doing two things: random dungeons and pick-up-groups, or PUGs.
With Richard Garriott and Portalarium announcing yesterday The Shroud of the Avatar Kickstarter, we have the man who many credit with the invention of the MMORPG (Ultima Online) returning to the scene. While this in and of itself brings quite a bit of skepticism as well as excitement, there’s reason to believe that Garriott can bring back to the industry a much-needed shot in the arm. Leave aside the whole Tabula Rasa vs. Garriott’s trip to space vs. NCSoft controversy for a moment. This is the guy who literally brought MMO genre to the masses. Yeah, he’s been quiet for a while, and yeah, that last project didn’t work out (under a company who since has become known for torpedoing game projects – Tabula Rasa, City of Heroes, Auto Assault, NetDevil, Dungeon Runners, Dragonica), but Richard Garriott “gets it” when it comes to storytelling in computer games. Here’s why:
Not too long ago, there were only a few MMORPGs on the landscape; the genre was relatively new. The big names started with Ultima Online, Dark Age of Camelot, then EverQuest and EverQuest 2, and finally, the ultimate behemoth, World of Warcraft (yep, I know your other favorite was in there somewhere as well, but those are the biggies). Since that time, the genre has literally exploded; currently, there are almost 600 active MMORPG’s available, from every genre imaginable, with emphasis on one feature over another, browser-based, to mobile, and even some targeting consoles. How the heck do you choose? I say this because to many folks, an MMO is a long-term commitment; many are looking for a game home that will provide off-hours recreation for a good many years; many solid friendships and even marriages have come from people met in-game, so finding that right mix is essential. Keep in mind that as you ask yourselves these questions, there is no right or wrong answer; everyone has their own preferences for play, just be honest with yourself.
It pays to narrow down the options, so let’s start with…
Glorantha, Introduction to the Hero Wars is one of the first supplements to be written for Hero Wars line by Issaries, Inc. It’s the 253-page crash course for Greg Stafford’s fascinating and complex game world – one that has existed since 1978 in various incarnations, but most famously through Chaosium’s (and later Avalon Hill’s) RuneQuest. In that respect, Glorantha, Introduction to the Hero Wars has a lot to live up to, and the fact that it is the core world for the Hero Wars line adds more pressure to deliver the goods. For those new to Glorantha, the Issaries supplement is the only in-print, all-inclusive guidebook to the key game world for Hero Wars. For RuneQuest alumni, the closest out-of-print comparison is the 8th boxed set by Chaosium and Avalon Hill for RuneQuest 3rd edition: Glorantha: Genertela, Crucible of the Hero Wars.
Thought I’d take a break from the MMO world this week and talk a little bit about the whirlwind of changes with the Star Wars franchise. For those who haven’t been watching all things Star Wars, the big news is that George Lucas has sold all the rights for Star Wars to Disney Studios, and has bowed out of making any future movies, serving only as a consultant. Add to that news that Disney will produce a new Star Wars movie (set after the original series) which will appear sometime in 2015, and that J.J. Abrams will be directing. For those who don’t know J.J. Abrams, he produced the Lost television series, the Goonies throwback Super 8, and the 2009 Star Trek reboot. He’s produced a ton of SF television, including Felicity, Fringe, and recently, Revolution (the one about the power going out).
Many early computer adventure games intermingled plot and mystery, action and puzzle – Myst, Silent Hill, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Zork, Ultima, The Longest Journey. Playing these games growing up, friends and I spent long hours taking notes, making maps, figuring out plot connections – all this alongside the combat that could crop up at any time. Figuring out how to open the mysterious locked chest or opening the secret door, or discovering that the king is possessed was half the battle, and when you did figure it out, it was often as exciting as the most challenging combat in the game.
Even better were the games where nothing was truly spelled out for you – you found clues as you explored, and serendipitously the story or mystery emerged as you put the pieces together. Myst was the best at this; you were simply dropped into the situation and left to stumble across strange notes, books, sounds and images, and left to put 2 and 2 together. It was amazing.
So why is the investigation mission completely missing from the modern MMO?