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Beau Hindman's MMO Thoughts

My name is Beau Hindman: a freelance writer, developer, artist, drummer and gamer from Austin, Texas. I've been gaming since '99 and writing about them since 2006! This is my blog about ducks. I mean MMORPGs.

Author: beauhindman

How can we preserve MMORPGs forever?

Posted by beauhindman Friday July 29 2016 at 11:27AM
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If you know what a doomsday prepper is, then you might understand what I am talking about in this blog. If you don't, a prepper is someone who is convinced that the world is going to some kind of end sometime soon, and so they prepare for this apocalypse by hoarding food, medical supplies, and weapons all in the hope that, one glorious dark day, we will look at them and say "You were SO right."

There is more involved to a prepper's feelings, however. If you ask me, they are acting in a way that gives them a sense of control. Sure, it can be a false sense of control, but it makes them feel better to think they have everything accounted for.

I feel the same way (in a healthier fashion) about the memories and stories of my life. They're not exciting -- mostly -- but they are mine, and so I get a sense of control over my fate when I work on this blog or my virtual timeline, which helps to send images, words, sounds, and ideas into the greater universe. Basically, I am preparing for my end-times by cataloging my life. It's a false sense of security (will these words be around in even 1,000 years?) but it is fun to do.

I also think about preserving MMORPGs for the same reason. They are works of art, and need to have a place in the history books beyond a few vague mentions about "virtual worlds." I do not think that MMORPGs are going away any time soon, but I do think that a certain era has passed, an era of innocent exploration into worlds that we an play in, and worlds that are largely based around an aging medium: the desktop PC.

How could we preserve virtual worlds, literally?

Without the aid of the developer of these worlds, this is hard to do. Because an MMORPG depends on a server that is hosted outside of the game, once the server goes offline, much of what the game is, is gone

It's important to catalog the images, sounds, videos, and words about these worlds, so that one day someone can admire them like we now admire old paintings from the days of the Greeks or dramas from 1820. 

Some MMORPGs are being accessed long after their last official servers shut down thanks to illegal (or near illegal) fan-hosted servers, but wouldn't it be awesome if someone like myself could load up a cheap gaming system with, say, 50 MMORPGs, and be able to emulate a server so someone could access those games for many years to come?

Of course, even the machines themselves would break down, but ones and zeros can be transferred to a new machine, over and over, without any loss to the basic information. 

In the meanwhile, I am going to continue to work on my goal of eventually printing out all of my images and words about these games so that we could have a hard copy or two that would not need a battery pack to continue to live.

Maybe the answer to the riddle of MMORPG preservation is based in the oldest of media: the page. 


Is Pokemon Go! an MMORPG?

Posted by beauhindman Friday July 29 2016 at 9:20AM
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Before I begin to attack the question in the title of this blog, I'd like to define what I -- and many others -- think MMORPG stands for. Yes, it stands for "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game" but I think it's easier to say that it stands for a game that allows players to gather together, potentially with scores or hundreds of other players, in a real-time environment that continues evolving even when the player leaves the game.

This means that I open a game, sign in, and control an online version of myself in a world that plays out in real time, with other players.

Please note that the definition does not speak about the type of device you play on, or what sort of interactions you have with other players.

That would mean that while World of Warcraft is an MMO, instanced-battle-based games are generally not because they lack that massive-world interaction, in real time. Sure, we can get complicated and technical and find that all sorts of games are MMORPGs, but we don't need to; the definition already allows for many different types of games.

Say, for example, the game Tribal Wars 2 by very successful browser and mobile-based developer Innogames: yes, it's in a browser, but that does not disqualify it as an MMO. It has an open world (one giant map) and each player's city counts as that player's "avatar", albeit one that does not move much. It can grow, interact with other players in real time, and the world continues to go on when the player leaves the game.

Players interacting in Tribal Wars 2

Some MMO fans seem to have an issue with Pokemon Go! because it seems much too simple and not MMO-like at all (then again, MMO players remain some of the grumpiest and oldest players in gaming) but they need to stop to consider just how wonderfully MMO it is and should try and encourage new design.

Pokemon Go! happens in real-time, in a real environment (can't be more real than real!) and the players can interact. The world goes on without the player in it.

I have been playing MMORPGs since 2000, and I have noticed just how eager many players are to dismiss a game simply because it is not their idea of fun, or their idea of an MMO. This has led to a funneled approach to development, leaving many MMO developers with limited design options for fear of players leaving the game for more MMO-like pastures. MMORPGs are also very expensive to make, and very expensive to maintain.

Pokemon Go! is an MMO, no doubt, and has shown to be more interactive and more popular that the almost dreadful game Ingress that it is based on. I see the players who grump about how bad it is that players are staring at their cell phones all day (while getting exercise! God forbid!) but I remember that grumpiness has never stopped progress. This is good, because as I have predicted over the years, the MMO will stop being all about many hours-long sessions while sitting behind a PC, and will morph into games that follow anywhere we go, thanks to the pocket computers many of us now have.

What is my preference? Do I prefer a game that is more like World of Warcraft or RIFT, in both scale and execution? Yes, I do. In fact I wish all games were massive worlds where we could interact together in.

But, that does not stop me from enjoying new attempts at re-defining multiplayer gaming. The mobile world has been growing for years, so it's no surprise that if you ask a younger player what they play games on -- PC or a mobile device -- they will look at you and ask:

"What's a PC?"

Pokemon Go! is an MMORPG by all definitions. I can't wait to see what the game attempts to do!