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The Rubicon

The mission here is simple. To provoke insightful, intelligent conversations about the MMO genre.

Author: killinger

A love letter with a heavy heart.

Posted by killinger Sunday January 25 2015 at 3:14AM
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This isn't going to be a blog post with a specific narrative in mind. I really don't know how to focus these feelings with out this thought popping into my head, the MMO genre that I fell in love with is gone. Now before this turns into a post about the "MMO is dying" I want to make clear that I don't think its dying. I think its just that I've been hyped up just to be brought back down in 6-8 weeks by basically every MMO that has emerged in recent memory. Let me put some context to this.

My first MMO experience was EQ1. At the time the MMO, and online gaming in general, was very young then. It was easy for an MMO to amaze you at every turn. I have never played a game where you were surrounded by thousands of players, together triumphing over legendary beasts and forging adventures on a daily basis. While I didn't play it as long as others (Due to my little brother becoming absolutely obsessed thus thrusting me out of the game) it still made an impact on me that I hold dear to this day. Final Fantasy 11 was my next, and to this day my favorite MMO of all time. I (and basically everyone else here) had their time with WoW, and while my time was fun with WoW it never had the effect that the previous two games had. Since then I have gone through countless hyped up releases, alphas, betas and everything in-between. I have just quit Archeage for a number of reasons and now here I am pondering what MMO is next.

So here I am tunneling through the internet looking for an MMO to play and all across the web is the discussion of the idea that MMOs are dead. Are they really dead? Am I cursed with never having those feelings of adventure and solidarity with guildmates again? Or is it just that I am an adult now and the responsibilities of real life not allow me such pleasures? The only games I've been playing to have any resemblance to the feelings I got form EQ1 are games such as Day Z, and even then that genre, while young, is already creating carbon copies of one another. While the newly released H1Z1 is very good in my opinion (debatable yes but that's for another post) I still yearn for the RPG aspect. I was turned into a gamer because of the SNES RPGs. Final Fantasy 3 (Technically 6 but god dammit it was Final Fantasy 3 on SNES for the US and that what it was to me) is my favorite game of all time. Before that game I play video games very casually, 1-2 hours before I was done. Once I discover RPGs I could do 8 hour sessions without thinking twice about it. It honestly amazes me that I didn't turn into a basement dwelling hermit chained to the fate of being a socially awkward virgin forever. I think the allure of weed and getting crazy in life was enough to maintain a balance, but I digress.

So where is this all leading? Well really nowhere I guess, because that's how I feel about the state of MMO progression and innovation. I feel that while we are seeing MMOs make highly polished, cinematic, flashy and very expensive games, none have rekindled the fire. And this is the thought that makes me weep on the inside. I don't think its me either. I still have the same love for music, travel, books, film, and basically ever other hobby I enjoy. So I don't think its my age that is really the factor the this heavy heart. Many of us will blame WoW for the stain on the genre. I can see a lot of valid points, but I feel the WoW is just an easy finger to point. Every other genre of gaming has been able to evolve past their respective great games of a past generation. Why is it that MMOs fail to do the same? Why do these companies feel that every MMO they make MUST  fit the mold of WoW in order to be successful? Or that every sandbox MMO must fit the mold of Star Wars Galaxies in order to please? Maybe the MMORPG genre could to a hint or two from games like Day Z.

I know I've kind of been all over the place in this post, but there is an overarching idea to it. I really miss the MMO's of yore. More specifically I miss the organic social structure of past MMOs. I miss the days when getting to level was not the goal but just a byproduct of your invested time. The journey to get there was the goal. The friends you made along the way was the goal. The idea of getting lost in a dangerous world without a million NPCs with fucking exclamation points above their god forsaken heads was the goal. It was about having another life in a world that grew naturally without soul bound items or lame auction houses. A world were getting to the other continent meant running through places where you could die very quickly, then take a boat ride that was dangerous, just to run through two more dangerous zones just to get to your location. Anyways you probably get the idea.

I get the feeling that a lot of others feel the same way, and I understand how tough it is to accept. We keep thinking the next release will be "The One" that will bring it all back, only to be back here a month or two later looking for another MMO to play. Its 3:08 a.m on January the 25th, 2015 and I have very few games to look forward to. Pessimistic? Maybe, but sad nonetheless. There's a quote from the movie "Old Boy" that always pops in my head in times like this. "Laugh and the world laughs with you, weep and you weep alone......."

MMOs at the Heart

Posted by killinger Friday December 5 2014 at 3:37AM
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The heart of the MMO has changed shape since its inception. Whether these changes are good or bad is debatable depending on where your MMO life began. Even with these differences of opinion, there seems to be unsettling feeling that the heart is growing colder, apathetic, and driven more by the pot of gold than  building an entrancing world that the pot exists in. Its beginning to look like the industry has forgotten what made the genre so alluring in the first place. While in a certain context these ideas could look archaic, primitive or just old fashioned, but if you study the subject with some introspection we begin to see the cracks in in the armor. Control, contribution and community were the driving force in early MMOs  and for good reason, lets compare and contrast.
 
Let me give a little background about my roots with MMO gaming. The first MMO I was exposed to was the original Everquest. When I first got the disk and took it home I really had no idea what I was getting ready to play. I was more or less a console gamer at the time because my PC was barely able to play just about everything. I went ahead and gave it a shot as I was such a thirsty gamer at that age and as I hopped into the city of Halas for the first time my mind was blown. As I began to realize what I had discovered, I began to feel as if gaming was changed for me. This game accompanied by Star Wars Galaxies were really the last of their kind, and its heart wrenching. Before this begins to sound like a rant I'll add some perspective.
 
One of the things these games offered was control. The players had control over how certain aspects of the game worked. This is core element missing or misinterpreted by current developers. For example, in Everquest the was little to no soul bound restrictions on gear. You wanted to let your friend use you Sword of 1000 Truths, sure. Wanted to hook you buddy up with some badass gear a level 2, why not. While this is prone to some exploitation, at its core it gave players control over their experience. Next we have the auction house, or lack of I should say. In Everquest (I will be referring to this game frequently) There was, you guessed it, no auction house. Instead if you wanted to sell your Sword of 1000 Truths you would put your toon somewhere cozy in the marketplace, or "Bazaar" as it was called on my server, and put your wares up for sale. People would the run by and inspect your wares as intended. While this may sound a bit tedious, it created a somewhat magical scenario. Imagine walking into the Bazaar and seeing hundreds of players buying, selling, and trading items at any given point. It was the electricity flowing through the air as you walked around, feeling like this digital world was breathing with life and wonder. You never knew what you would find....and it was amazing.
 
This feeling was complimented with your ability to feel like you can be a contribution to others. The way Everquests class system worked seems pretty straight forward at face value, and honestly it is for the most part. One of the ways that makes it still stand out today was certain abilities that some classes had. For instance, in Everquest the danger was real. You were afraid of what could be looming around every corner because death was punishing. Not only would you lose experience and possibly losing a level, but you body would stay at the death sight with all your gear. It was your responsibility to get it back or face the potential pain of losing it all. This is where a Necromancer and Cleric's skills come into play. A Necromancer had the ability to summon corpses while the Cleric could resurrect. They normally did this while accepting tips or charging a fee and were instrumental in the survival of everyone. Another example is the Druid class (Correct me if I'm wrong its been a while) and their ability to teleport. In Everquest you couldn't just teleport  like in most modern MMOs, you needed the Druid for such luxuries. While these are just a few examples it really shows how players could and were encouraged to provide for each other. The byproduct of these mechanics was a sense of community.
 
Really this is the backbone of this rhetoric and arguably MMOs in general. A sense of community must be present in order for players to feel involved and immersed in an MMO. While this might receive a tomato or two I never really understood the want or need for players to have solo content in a way that allowed them to not interact with others. I've always felt that an MMO was about playing and working with others to achieve goals and milestones.  find much more satisfaction in single player RPGs when I want to play alone.
 
The heart still beats within the chest of the genre, but the warmth is fleeting. There are a few glimmers of hope as we see certain developers trying to recapture the nuances of older MMO mantras. The hope here at the Rubicon is to see the genre rekindle it's past ideologies and meld them with a modern approach using the tools and techniques available today. So raise your glass and drink to the hope of the heart.