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MMORPG Quest

One man's quest through the world of MMORPGs...

Author: elvenprince9

The Social Experience in MMORPGs

Posted by elvenprince9 Friday June 26 2009 at 6:49PM
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It’s no secret that free to play MMORPGs have been exploding in popularity in the past few years. Once unheard of in the West, scores of free MMORPG games are now available for North American and European gamers. But while this trend has banished the dreaded monthly subscription fee, it has come at a cost. Many rightly claim that free MMORPGs have much lower quality than the traditional pay-to-play MMORPG offered by Western developers such as Electronic Arts or Blizzard. This might of been true at first but many of today’s free games have excellent production value that even rival those of subscription MMORPGs. Games like Project Powder and MegaTen are both high quality titles available for free that defy the stereotype.

While progress has been made on quality, free MMORPGs still lack a very important feature that comes naturally to classic titles such as EverQuest or WoW and that is community. The social experience in a MMORPG is arguably the most important aspect. It’s what separates the genre from its single player cousin, the RPG. Most pay to play games are designed in a way that encourages player cooperation and team work. Few classes in Vanguard, for example, are self sufficient and thus require the assistance of other players to progress. Most free to play MMORPGs try to make each player as self sufficient as possible. The worst thing that can happen to an average Ragnarok Online player is running into a fellow gamer with the audacity to hunt in the same spot as him. Since many free MMORPGs are developed in South Korea where popular f2p titles such as MapleStory and Mir 2 originated, they all have this basic lack of social necessity.

The difference is not hard to spot. Anyone with wide experience in the MMO field knows firsthand how Asian ‘grindfests’ differ from community driven epics such as the original EQ. A good MMORPG will find a way to incorporate elements of both styles. Some people do genuinely prefer to play alone. This is why World of Warcraft has been such a success both in America and in China. Gamers can go at it alone from level 1 to 80 but must work together to defeat the most powerful bosses. As the free-to-play market grows and Western developers get more involved in it, we can only hope that more MMORPGs with hybrid social emphasis are released. Judging by the rapid progress that has been made in the realms of graphics and gameplay, I’m confident we won’t have to wait long.

Where are all the MMORPG Tutorials?

Posted by elvenprince9 Thursday June 25 2009 at 3:36PM
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I’m not sure why, but it seems like the growing trend in free MMORPG games it to launch the game without a tutorial. I had the opportunity to play the Dragon Sky open beta just the other day and I found myself a bit confused, as the game didn’t have a tutorial. Now, I’m no newbie to genre, so I know the jist of how most MMORPG games work, but I just couldn’t figure out Dragon Sky. For a good two hours I played the game without learning a single skill, as the game never explained to me where to train skills. Heck, the game didn’t even present me with starting quest. It basically told me, ‘ready… set…. GO GRIND!’. I eventually figured things out on my own, but it would have been a lot more convenient if the game provided me some instructions. Enough Dragon Sky bashing though, as it’s not the only game without a tutorial. Even newer games like HolyBeast Online, Twelve Sky 2 and Titan Online don’t have tutorials.

One reason why games like Atlantica Online, Runes of Magic and Maple Story are as popular as they are is because they’re fairly straight forward games and have EXCELLENT tutorials / tooltips so newbies and veterans alike can quickly learn the ins and outs of the game. When I install and new MMORPG, I think it’s fair for me to expect some sort of guide / tutorial. As a hardcore MMORPG gamer, I can usually figure things out on my own, so the people really getting ’screwed’ are those that are new to the genre, as they’ll end up wandering around for a few minutes, dying and quitting the game. I really can’t understand why MMORPG developers spend so much time, money and effort creating a game, and decide to cut a corner and release their game without a tutorial. It really doesn’t make sense. Like I said earlier, MMORPG veterans usually don’t need a tutorial when trying out a new game, but those unfamiliar with the genre certainly do.

The fact is, there really is no reason to launch a free MMO without a tutorial. Without one, newbies will flock to the more popular games that DO have them and this will hurt the entire game’s community. This really wouldn’t be an issue if only a handful of games didn’t have tutorials, but from my experience MOST Free Online MMORPGs don’t have tutorials. It’s simply ridiculous how many games don’t have tutorials.

Can Free to Play Work in Other Genres?

Posted by elvenprince9 Tuesday June 9 2009 at 10:59PM
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Free to play MMORPGs are here to stay. Some nay-sayers still complain about the poor content and quality of service provided in F2P games but recent releases like Runes of Magic, Perfect World and Atlantica Online have shown the world what ‘free’ is capable of. The success of these titles prove that the micro transaction model can work both in Asia and here in the West. The only question that I have is why are so many free to play titles are RPGs?

After RPGs, the next most popular genre of free to play games is FPS (first person shooter.) Here too the success of the model is self evident. Nexon’s Combat Arms has a large playerbase from which it profits by selling slightly more powerful guns and accessories for a small fee. Almost every major free to play publisher either FPS game already available or is in the process of releasing one. IJJI, which already hosts Soldier Front and GunZ: The Duel is soon to release Huxley, a FPS built on the Unreal 3 engine. Even a major Western publisher has gotten the message. EA’s Battlefield Heroes is currently in beta testing and will be released as a free-to-play shooter.

Before I continue, I should mention that racing games are also well represented in the free to play space. Realistic racing games like Project Torque and cartoony racers like Tales Runner and Kart n Crazy are already free to download and play. But what about action adventure titles or platformers? What I would really like to see is more experimentation with all genres rather than sticking with the few tried and true staples. So far it has been Eastern developers doing most of the innovating in the free to play market and that trend seems likely to continue. Hopefully the major studios will soon wake up and the see writing on the wall. How cool would it be if the next major Ubisoft or Activision Blizzard title was entirely free to play?