This has been an exciting month or so in the world of video games, with the launch of a number of a number of new and exciting titles that have had people buzzing with excitement and lining up out the doors of electronics stores at midnight.
Unfortunately, none of them are MMOs. It’s not as though it hasn’t been our genre in the spotlight before. Crowds reliably line up and forums at MMORPG.com and elsewhere light up for any expansion to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft and I expect they will again when Cataclysm has its day in the sun. Buzz for MMOs was also huge last summer with the launches of the two highly anticipated titles, Age of Conan and Warhammer Online.
These days though, it’s hard for upcoming MMOs like Jumpgate Evolution Star Trek Online or even Star Wars: The Old Republic, let alone popular and exciting pre-existing titles, to grab the spotlight the way that maybe they should be.
There are three companies I blame for this: Infinity Ward, Bioware and Valve have been hogging the spotlight these days. Damn them for crafting new and exciting gaming experiences outside of the MMO genre and damn them for making me choose where to spend what little money I’ve been able to set aside for video games this far before Christmas.
In the end, for anyone who might be sitting at home wondering which of the three mega-hit games I decided to pick up from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, Dragon Age: Origins or Left 4 Dead 2, I went with the latter. I really had no choice; it’s like an addiction now.
It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I’ve had an undead monkey on my back ever since the first game in the series launched last year and I can even tell you why. It’s the co-operative nature of the game. Sure, I could sit here and talk about how Valve has managed to weave an interesting and immersive story into a game with no text boxes and very few cut scenes. I could also rave about how great the visuals are and how this second game has captured the gore of the genre in ways that the first never could, but I won’t talk about those things. Instead, it’s the co-op.
Honestly, I wish all online games were designed in such a way as to encourage co-operative play, even within random pickup groups, on such a level. Players are so dependent on one another for survival (and, of course ultimate victory), that while there is plenty of opportunity for players to stealth loot and look out for themselves first, it rarely, if ever happens outside of the very occasional griefer. Can you say that about your current MMO? Can you say it about your favourite shooter?
The overall, I suppose the word is friendliness, that comes along with this game is a) refreshing and b) ironic given the graphic and extreme violence that the gameplay implies.
I am also impressed with the fact that as far as sequels go, Valve got the formula right. When you play L4D2, they took all of the conventions and mechanics of the original game, improved a number of them, mixed in a few new elements and created a gameplay experience that was familiar enough to fan of the original game that it was easy to jump right into, but different enough that there’s a bit of a learning curve and you don’t feel like you’re playing something that should have been made available as DLC to the original game.
Still, while my attention may have been diverted briefly by the shiny new games from other genres, I’m just about ready to turn my attention back to waiting to see what the new batch of MMOs might hold.