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Paragus Rants

Rants, reviews, and interviews from an MMO veteran and guild leader.

Author: Paragus1

Rant: Community

Posted by Paragus1 Tuesday January 15 2008 at 11:38PM
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Rant: Community

One of the most important aspects of our experience playing an MMO, or any online game, is the community.  It is the very nature of playing games online that we get to interact with other people in these virtual worlds.  Much like a story book, our travels will introduce us to a wide variety of characters.   Some of these characters are noble, others are fools.  These encounters can often time leave us with a bad taste in our mouths by souring gameplay.



It is ironic if you think about it, that one of the most important aspects of our MMO's might be they don't have control over when designing the game......Or is it?  Me and my guild had a lengthy discussion about the various communities we have encountered in the various MMO's we have played, and I think I have found a definite link between 2 specific elements of the game design and the community you will encounter in those games. 

1) Challenge

Ever see that movie "Indepence Day" where the aliens come down and attack Earth and try to exterminate all the humans?  Imagine this scenario happening in real life as silly as it may seem.  With all the conflict and bickering that goes on the world, if a new enemy showed up out of nowhere that was devastating enough to wipe out the human race.   I think it is safe to say that we would hopefully be able to set aside our differences and work together for our collective survival.  The same thing goes for MMOs.



I think of 2 of the hardest MMOs I have ever played are EQ1 and FFXI.  These are also probably the games with 2 of the best communities I have ever seen.  Both of these games had extremely unforgiving difficulty, but as a result, the communities of these games seemed to have a mutual respect for the shared struggle to make your way in these harsh worlds.  Maybe it was the death penalty in these games.   Both games had a very harsh sting which in both cases resulted in the loss of a significant amount of exp, the possibility of level loss, and corpse recovery naked in EQ1.  It could also be attributed the fact that getting anywhere in both of these games usually required you to have friends, and in a group oriented game, your reputation was one of your most valued possessions.

In the original Everquest, it was not uncommon to be killed deep in a dungeon somewhere and wake up miles or on another continent or pane completely naked.   Your fate rests completely on your ability to find some person in the community who is willing to go out on a limb for your sake, sometimes with the promise of little or no compensation.  There were many times where I would find myself in need of a good old fashion corpse summon and the community would always produce a good soul willing to help out someone in a bad situation.



In FFXI, the community shined in a completely different way.  There are many times in the course of your FFXI career where one is forced to complete certain quests which can often times be of infuriating difficulty.  Having to do quests every 5 levels starting at 50 to raise your level limit, and trying to obtain the vital piece of your classes set armor would often time put you against horrible odds, but send you to places so far away, and so horrific that you don't even dare speak of them out loud.  To make things even more difficult, half of the people on your server speaking a different language can make getting assistance even harder.  I was completely stunned by how selfless so many people were in this game.   Complete strangers offering to help with quests without asking, and others would often times come from many zones away with no reward.  Say what you will about FFXI, but they have the most helpful community of any MMO I have played to date.



2) Complexity

Not all MMO's are created equal in terms of complexity.  Some like WoW are marketed to the newcomer to the genre.   Others like Anarchy Online have a staggering amount of depth that is certain to make even the most seasoned veteran struggle to wrap their mind around all of the ways to develop and advance your character.  I don't know if its the staggering amount of skills, the implants, the equations that make up each stat, but there is definitely something about a game with this much depth that seems to keep the idiots far away.



I suspect that people playing complex games like AO want others to enjoy the game as much as they do.  Games with this much customization can often times scare off new comers if the learning curve is too high.  From my own personal experience, the community in Anarchy Online was always able to produce a person who was willing to make sure I enjoyed the game by helping to explain to me the complexity of the options I had for character customization and navigate its massive world.

Challenge + Complexity = Community ?

When you compare these examples to a game like WoW, the contrast couldn't be larger.   I played WoW for a solid 2 years, and as a guild leader, I have crossed paths with some amazing idiots.   Now now, before you flame me, I understand everyone has a different experience, but I am writing this from my own viewpoint and experiences. 



Maybe some people out there think WoW is a collection of intellectual scholars. I personally think that the community on the servers I played on was going to inflict a permanent loss of IQ points after every log in.  But if you look at the way the game was designed, it is obvious that the game is made so that a 10 year old can play it easily.  The death penalty is virtually non-existent so there is no real shared struggle.  In fact, on many servers I found myself hating the people on my side more then the other team because of the never ending e-peen contest to see who could kill what gimmicky raid boss.

If you made it this far, I salute you!  I am curious to hear about your experiences in any of the MMOs I have mentioned here, but more importantly the ones I haven't.  I'm sure many people will flame me, but again I have made this theory based on my own adventures.  If there is some truth to this, it looks like the developers might have a bit more control over their community than they think at the design phase.



Co-Leader of Inquisition

Rant: Collector's Editions

Posted by Paragus1 Friday January 11 2008 at 5:50PM
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Rant: Collector's Edition

Who here is a dork or a nerd of some kind?   I'll be the first to raise my hand.  Chances are if you didn't raise yours, you are living in a world of self-dillusion.   You are on a video game website, reading Blogs about what other people think about video games, especially some jackass like me.   We aren't talking about any type of video game mind you, but one of the most stereotypical types of video games, MMORPGs.



Ah yes....the prestige of being one of the many who find satisfaction in persuing virtual domination in virtual worlds to inflate your virtual manhood.  We're the type of gamers that conjures up the mental image of a 300 pound fat man in his 40's, probably with some sort of a beard, who dwells in the castle dungeon (A.K.A your parents basement) with a sword hanging on the wall.  Now if that doesn't scream woman repellent loud enough for you, along comes the crafty marketing executive to make sure you will never see an unpixilated woman by introducing something known as "The Collector's Edition" of your favorite new game.

I know there are a lot of you out there.  You know who you are.   But how can you resist?!   For only another $30, they will give you that brand new MMO in steel box, with a cloth map, and even toss in a free item in-game to boost your exp by 0.5%, and something more visible so that everyone else in your virtual world knows how badass you are (like a useless pet)!



So what is the reality?

Given the trend of MMO's in the last 2 years, there is pretty good chance that the Collector Edition of that new MMO you bought is going to be the stamp of a true sucker.  How many MMO's that come out in recent memory actually end up being worth a sloppy pile of steaming crap?  Not that many.   So when people find out that not only did you buy that MMO that should have been reviewed on , but you also decided to pay $30 more then everyone else, you are looking like one dumb nerd bastard among your fellow dorks.



The steel box that pile of crap came in ends up storing something more important to you, like your "Klingon to English" dictionary.   That cloth map you paid a premium for will most likely find its way to your bathroom where you will hopefully run out of toilet paper and get the satisfaction of wiping your ass with a world that was ill-conceived by some idiot spouting about his "vision".



I also love how they use the word "Collector".   Seriously, when was the last time a video game was worth something, especially a bad one?  Is there some vast underground black market somewhere where people are paying top dollar for the collector edition?   I know some of you out there will flame me for this, but I would love to be enlightened on this.

A lot of the time I write these rants, I direct it towards the developers and marketing executives behind the madness.   This time its your fault,  yea you, Mr. MMO Video Game Collector Guy.   WTF are you thinking?!  Why do you buy this crap?   Are we ready to sell what's left of our dignity for a 0.5% exp bonus and a mini-diablo pet?    If you are ever lucky enough to convince some female to willing enter your parent's basement and ignore that sword on the wall.....will it be worth her fleeing from your dungeon when she truly realizes the severity of the situation?



What if she is an MMO player and you were that guy who got the Vanguard Collector's Edition?!  It's over for you my friend.   All I ask is that we as gamers learn to draw the line somewhere.  Just because you paid $30 more then the rest of us doesn't mean your game is going to be worth more.    If you buy video games as an investment you should seek some serious therapy, and if it was Vanguard, a little piece of us all just died on the inside for you ;)



Co-Leader of Inquisition