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Worst. Blog. Ever.

Where MMORPGs are deconstructed, analyzed, probed, ridiculed, and then reconstructed. If there's time.

Author: Sornin

Every MMORPG does something right...

Posted by Sornin Tuesday January 29 2008 at 11:57PM
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...but not every MMORPG does enough right.

However, in this entry, I am going to be positive and only focus on things that MMORPGs did well, because too often we lose sight of this and simply slam an entire game outright. Each release sees something added to the genre, or refined, and these are the things I wish to celebrate today.

So, the following will be a discussion of things I felt were strong aspects about some of the MMORPGs I have played. The list will not be comprehensive, as I will only point out one or two things per game, makes no claims about which game did what first, and will be highly subjective, but with that in mind, let's begin!

Ultima Online

I did not play UO for very long, nor did I advance very far, but in my short time all those years ago, I must say I marvelled at how it truly was a world, not just a game environment. MMORPGs that have come since then may claim to be "living, breathing worlds" or some other marketing junk, but UO actually delivered here. You truly were thrust into the world and basically told to play however you wanted and do whatever you wanted.

You could set foot in the game and, before even killing a single enemy, go out and chop down some trees, craft some shields, and go sell them. You could buy a house, or open a shop, and virtually never engage in combat at all, and still have a load of fun. Of course, you could take a more sinister route and be a feared brigand who murders at will and develops an infamous reputation.

Basically, UO was more than an MMORPG, it was more of an virtual world, and it is this freedom that I feel was its greatest asset.

EverQuest

I played EQ for a long time, and the difficulty I have is choosing only a couple things to praise, since it did so much for the MMORPG genre and set so many standards that still govern how MMORPGs basically function today.

The first thing I must say it excelled at was atmosphere. The feel of all of the different areas in Norrath was superb, and the themes throughout could definitely be identified and appreciated. Each race's city was exactly what it should be, from the Wood Elves' treetop capital of Kelethin to the Gnomes' mechanical capital of Ak'Anon. Even the dungeons and zones nailed the ambiance they were looking for, and often took my breath away.

Verant did not cut any corners when it came to producing a truly captivating world, and little touches were everywhere and tied in with the story of the game itself. I do not think any MMORPG since has been as deep when it comes to this aspect, nor as polished, and I doubt any ever will be again.

The second thing of special note was class definition and group roles. For the most part, each class played distinctly, was fun, and had a special role in a group. Also, group dynamics were really solidified here, and presented to a lot of people for the first time. The concept of bringing a group composed of different classes together to achieve something bigger than an individual could alone was not new, but EQ really perfected it and made it accessible and enjoyable. Every MMORPG since has taken cues from EQ in this regard, without changing the formula very much at all. If anything, any minor changes have been to water things down rather than advance them.

Asheron's Call

AC was an MMORPG I merely dabbled in, as I played it and EQ concurrently and heavily favoured the latter. Still, AC had a lot of good things going for it.

The first, and to me the most important, were the very regular, very large content updates that came along with just a regular subscription. Turbine really raised the bar when it came to expanding the world and increasing the quality of the game without relying on expansions alone. I fondly remember looking forward to each update, which would often add to the plot via story arcs and quests, and seldom disappointed.

Secondly, the uniqueness of AC's advancement system was also wonderful because it was so open. The ability to spend experience as you earned it on various attributes made your effort immediately rewarded, which I think is a great "carrot". Furthermore, the very deep, and very complex spell and spell research system was interesting. You actually felt proud when you discovered a new spell, and the fact that the lesser-used ones were more powerful since the game tracked use was pretty cool. Ultimately, it was all a bit confusing to some, but I appreciated the effort and depth, all the same.

Dark Age of Camelot

DAoC is an easy game to do - Realm versus Realm combat! Finally, an MMORPG came around that offered a real purpose to PvP, and made it very much about a communal effort and about community pride, both key ingredients in longevity and participation.

Even the smallest person could feel they were part of something, and the rush of conquering an enemy and taking their relics was great. Even the sting of defeat was good, too, because you felt something was at stake. You did not want the enemy to beat you because you developed a deep sense of pride, something other games lack. The ongoing conflict provided limitless content and thus kept things exciting, which is a good game model because static content gets consumed, but endless conflict does not.

Anyway, I am going to stop for now, as I am rather tired and need to be up early tomorrow. However, I do intend to continue this as I am not nearly done.

In the meantime, if anyone wants to share what they liked best about these games I have mentioned, or want to comment on anything else, feel free.

Hexxeity writes:

The only reason AC was so diligent in updating its content is because it had so egregiously little content when it launched.  I don't think you can count this as a strength when it was really just an attempt to bring itself up to an acceptable level.  And it never did catch up to EQ in this arena.

Also, the spell research system was not as great as it seemed.  It looked kind of cool if you thought it was random, but it wasn't.  There was a table you could look up on the Web -- once you found it, it only took minimal trial and error to find your starting place, and from there you pretty much had every spell formula handed to you.

Finally, the advancement system led to a world of solo players using cookie-cutter templates.  In effect, there were a few different templates where people had figured out the most effective skill combinations, so there was actually LESS character variation than in a true class-based game.

I agree with you on EQ and DAoC, but in my opinion (and I know there are many people who disagree), Asheron's Call did absolutely nothing right.  They designed their game as a counter to everything they disliked in other games and ended up with a mess.

Wed Jan 30 2008 8:20AM Report
BadSpock writes:

The one thing I loved most about UO was the Faction PvP system. Before the Trammel/Felucca split, PvP had very little meaning. Gank or be ganked. That's about it. Steal or get stolen from.

The Felucca split drove UO PvP into a very abismal state. Barely anyone would PvP anymore. The Factions system brought the masses back to Felucca and gave them reason to fight. Not just be *sshat gankers and griefers, but to work together and conquer their foes. It created that feeling of "pride" in your faction that (from what I am told) DaoC did, and WAR aims to do.

But UO did another thing very smartly, they kept a server on the full FFA rule set w/o a Trammel side: Siege Perilous. Those who didn't like the Trammel/Felucca split or the factions PvP had a new home, and it was a bloody good time!

I played EQ once, for an hour or two, and I didn't like it. I really can't remember why. I never played AC or DaoC.

Good blog Sornin, I look forward to you going into the modern age with games like SWG, WoW, EQ2, LOTRO etc.

Wed Jan 30 2008 9:09AM Report

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