Friday, November 03, 2006

I'm a MMOG! Half Man, Half ... Never Mind

I usually hear this as "MMORPG" (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game) but ... MMOG, the second M not pronounced, generates too many wonderful Spaceballs flashbacks to omit.

For those of you have not heard my basic rant on the subject, I shall review it – aren’t you lucky?

First, a basic definition. A CRPG is a computer-based roleplaying game, that is to say, it is defined by an internal and (usually) invisible set of dice, along with customizable abilities and strengths for “you” – your character. It follows at least a minimal storyline, with your character expanding his/her talents as she goes. An MMORPG is the same thing, but the imaginary world is populated by hordes of other players. Whether because the addition of players limits the programming constructs, or whether because designers consider the social aspect should provide more of the fun, MMORPGs tend to be somewhat less story-centric and have more repetitive elements. Specific examples for the still-lost: Everquest, World of Warcraft, City of Heroes.

Now most of you know I play online TEXT-based roleplaying games, where the interaction with players and their characters is effectively a collaborative story. Fewer of you may know that I am also completely addicted to single-player CRPGs. My general feeling is when I want to get out my aggressions, I want to do it solo.

My prime complaint with MMORPGs is this, then: in general, they hurt both industries. Many players who would turn to text games end up on MMORPGs instead. There tends to be limited roleplaying on these games; I’ve never heard a report of it being widespread successful. However, it’s difficult to miss what you never find out exists. In any case, the visual aspect makes the text less determinative. Many who play online text games also MMORPG as well, sucked into that otherworld for hours. It’s an easier escape than asking a buddy for roleplay. In all fairness, on the game I play, we have acquired some people who found out about us from an MMORPG, but it’s not common.

On the converse side, because of the popularity of MMORPGs, it has become harder and harder to find solid single-player games. The number has gone down sharply since I started playing. I don’t know whether they’re easier for a design team to create, more popular, or just more profitable, but MMORPGs have definitely muscled into a prime computer game slot.

MMORPGs also seem to contribute to a specific CRPG trend that I loathe: real-time. That is to say, instead of having interactions (such as, let’s face it, combat) determined by a considered decision (“Okay, I need to cast a spell here – is it better to blast them or make them afraid?”) in a sequence of turns, everything happens continuously, as fast as you can click. Obviously, most MMORPGs are going to have to be in real-time rather than turn-based because otherwise you spend far too much time waiting for an idle player, but it bleeds over!

More later.

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