It has struck me quite recently, that I haven't been playing this genre right. While I may have gone through the motions, bought the games, and thumbed in the necessary credit card details, I haven't actually engaged with the art of MMOing for quite some time.
In my last article, I talked about remembering the core tenants of a multiplayer adventure: namely, talking to people. In tandem with the aforementioned, and along with the many iterations and advancements that titles such as World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 have brought along, a sense of growing inertia has settled somewhere within me.
I no longer engage with MMORPGs, instead just passively tapping out commands and clicking necessary targets. Upon launching each individual adventure, I know the drill: slump, stare, and level ad infinitum.
While I might have put this down to a lack of excitement in modern development, or dragged out a long-winded and nostalgic moan for South Karana and gnolls, I’m beginning to think that I might be the problem. I’m the one not paying attention. I’m the one not getting it.
What has brought on this sense of self-revelation is the fact, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m currently resident in Eorzea. I have pointy little ears, stand smaller than a hobbit, and own a skimpy little beach bikini all in the name of a big fire bomb god. I’ve enjoyed Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, not because it is in any way groundbreaking, but because I’ve accepted it, and played an MMORPG on its own terms for the first time in around five years.
The last time I truly, and fully, enjoyed a spot of virtual skullduggery, was EverQuest 2, circa 2008. It summed up a busy time of my life, fitting in the odd online tryst in between a burgeoning college schedule, a first “big boy” job, and a desperate need to appeal to the opposite sex.
Those few stolen moments within the land of Norrath were magical, and not particularly due to the game itself. Myself and a few friends congregated digitally in the fleetingly spare moments we had, donned our respective robes, wizard hats, and two handed swords, and took on some of EverQuest 2’s more forgotten locales.
Up until now, it was the last time I really got what the genre was all about. While in recent years I have bemoaned the lack of spark, that certain alchemy that newcomers feel with their first MMORPG, I’ve also stopped looking for the other things. The co-operative things. The fun things.I forgot what it was like to inhabit a role. While I’ve played almost every “major” MMO of the past decade, at some point I reverted to autopilot, helped in no small degree by the developer’s wish to keep it inclusive.
The upshot of this has been a certain loss of identity. Classes no longer dictate your particular role, as much as inform you what weapon you might use. I remember the days of EverQuest, people making considered choices of whether to roll an enchanter or shaman, simply because of the later game usefulness. Now, unless you implicitly head for healer, nobody really is needed above anyone else.
Or at least that is what I thought. Between public quests and pick-up-groups, I found steamrolling opponents in numbers to be just that. Steamrolling. Most dungeons I have attempted since my heady days as a 17 year old have been fairly humdrum. Tactics are rarely needed, and if we suffer a wipe, who cares?
Just recently however, I have started to get an inkling for what the genre used to be like, and still is for so many. Playing FFXIV with a friend has illuminated an aspect of online skirmishes I thought long forgotten. The strategy I desperately thought lost still remains.