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Coyote's Howling: No RPG in my MMORPG

Column By Guest Writer on September 01, 2011

I want to die.

Not in real life mind you, (as I'm pretty much immortal and the "true death" is no longer on the table for me) but where it actually counts... In my video games.

A long, long time ago, when the earth was still young and its crust still cooling, MMORPGs were much different than they are today.


But as they began to grow in popularity they began to change, and I feel it was a change for the worse… again, much like Carrot Top.  World of Warcraft shattered every record by becoming the largest and most popular MMORPG in gaming history. They gobbled up subscribers like a fat kid in a Pez factory, and have set the bar for every up and coming game since.

And there is your problem.

Nobody wants to be different, unique, or risk upsetting the hack-and-slash crowd. They don't want to be new, innovative, or original - they want to be World of Warcraft. They want to copy, clone, and become the game that they envision as "perfect" because it has the largest MMORPG share on the market without ever once considering the ugly truth:

Gaming has gone stupid.

In effort to grab as many players as they can, games are dumbing down content, slashing difficulty, and pretty much destroying everything that made them unique in the first place. Because of that, we've lost the most crucial things that form the core of an RPG.

Reading Quests

Let's be perfectly honest : when is the last time you actually stopped to read quest dialogue?

Why bother, right?

With today's quests you get immediate direction in the form of waypoints on maps, arrows leading in the right direction, and when you get close enough you just start blanket murdering everything in the area because eventually you'll get a confirmation popup. There's really no point in even having a storyline or quest dialogue.

"Forced to read pages of boring dialogue and figure out quests and missions on our own? Time sink. I'm here to kill dragons and get gear. If I wanted to read I'd go to the library."

The problem is, some of the quests are not only interesting and well written, but they suck you into the game you're playing and the character you embody.  It used to go far beyond simply accepting or declining a quest too. In earlier MMORPG's, you had to actually read the dialogue, and TYPE your response to the character.

"Welcome to Shar Vahl my friend. Are you here to assist us with our problem?" The giant cat-man King of the Kitty Litter People would ask in regal tones.

"Wha-" you'd start to type out in hopes of asking just the right question, only to lash out and punch him in his fuzz nuggets because you forgot to remap your keys and the letter "a" was defaulted to "auto attack".

Accidental deaths aside, I loved the fact that we had to type out our responses because it felt like you were really interacting with the character. You were forced to read the dialogue, understand the content and the mission behind the quest, and it truly drew you into the story. You might be killing the same ten rats as everyone else, but at least you knew why.

(Note: Not knowing why you're out killing ten of something for a dude you just met on the side of the road doesn't make you an adventurer, it makes you an easily manipulated serial killer.)

Impossibly Deadly Zones

Another trend MMORPG's seem to follow is "the path of eventual victory".

 No foe is impossible to kill, no zone is deadly for more than a few levels, and there is no real "fear factor" to the game. And I'm not talking about level - difficult zones, or zones where everything is dangerous to you and you have to fight for your life - I mean zones where you were not ever going to realistically win.

"Why would I pay money for content that I can't eventually PWN. What good is a game, monster or zone that you can't beat? There's no fun not being the biggest badass ."

Two words for you: Kithicor F**king Forest.

For those of you who never played the original EverQuest, let me explain:

Kithicor Forest was your basic, average n00bie zone. Low level mobs, wide open spaces, and harmless little creatures that would easily die when struck repeatedly with your +1 Rusty Sword of Tetanus. But that was during the day.

When it got dark? Sh*t got REAL.                   

It became a high level zone full of undead and things that would absolutely LOVE to catch your low leveled ass mindlessly harvesting or working on crafting skills. It only took one or two skeletal gang rapes before you learned to either fear the night, or stock up on gnome lube.

Eventually you'd find yourself nervously eyeing the in-game clock, gauging the distance to a safe area, and watching the position of the badly pixilated sun glitching across the virtual sky. If it started getting dark, you got back to town, or you found another zone. Period.

And even though you were never the biggest badass, it was fun.

Corpse Runs

"Corpse runs were a time sink. I don't play a game to die or spend hours retrieving my corpse, I play to have fun. They were an unnecessary waste of time."

We all know the arguments, and we've seen messages similar to this one fiercely defended by cocky forum experts who can cite every stat and spec from memory, but couldn't point to a vagina if they had a map.

I not-so-humbly disagree.

Do you know what corpse runs taught you?  Not to f**king die, that's what.

It also taught you the difference between fear and respect.  You couldn't just mindlessly "zerg" your way through a zone, throwing yourself at higher level monsters until they finally got bored of killing you and just gave you their sh*t so you'd go away.

There was a feeling of actual risk, and a thrill went through you whenever a fight was close or something large and angry was chasing you to the zone line. Will you make it? Is it still back there? Do you dare risk spinning and taking a look? Can you outrun your closest friend while dumping all of your aggro onto him so that he'd die in your place?

When death came with an actual penalty, the game forced you to stop and think before you acted. You had to choose your actions wisely, or you'd end up doing the naked corpse run of shame. Without that feeling of risk, and actual "real" consequence of action, you don't learn from your failures and you don't get as strong of a feeling of accomplishment from your victories.

It's just more mindless hack and slash.

"Everything you're bitching about is wrong. People don't have the time to invest in corpse runs, impossible zones, or long winded quests. Sometimes, they just want to pop on and play."

Which brings me to the most flame inducing thing I've ever written: "Then maybe MMORPGs aren't for you."

If everything that makes an MMORPG unique bothers you, the pace isn't quick enough and the instant satisfaction eludes you, why do you play them? If you know a place called the "Steak Hut" only sells meat, why do you and your vegan friends have to go in and insist that they open a salad bar?

These games were once intended to be virtual worlds and were in a way, intended to be "time sinks". Worlds where you not only played and mindlessly killed things because you could - but worlds where you became someone else, even if only for a few hours a night.

These were once solely designed to be role playing games where you interacted with other people and characters, or as I like to call them: "The RPG in your F'n MMORPG".

Now kill me.


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